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' C- ty Vj v-:^ 









W. H. H. 




THE KING ......... I 


GEORGE MEREDITH . . . . . . . 18 






THE KAISER . . . . . . . 71 

JOHN REDMOND ........ 80 


LORD CURZON ........ 96 


THE PRIMATE . . . . . . . .112 




THE REV. R. J. CAMPBELL . . . . . .145 


GENERAL BOOTH ........ l6l 

JOHN BURNS . . . . . . . .170 

RUFUS ISAACS, K.C. . . . , . . .179 

THE TSAR . l86 

viii Contents 


THE LORD CHANCELLOR . . . . . .196 




HENRY CHAPLIN . . . . . . . .227 


HERBERT SAMUEL ....... 242 



LORD NORTHCLIFFE . . . . . . .267 





DR HORTON . 309 



IN the accompanying sketches the attempt has been 
made to present fairly the characters dealt with and to 
analyse their motives with as little subjective colour as 
possible. If they are not wholly free from political pre- 
dilection, it is hoped that they will at least be found free 
from personal bias. The subjects have been chosen, not 
always because of their official or public prominence, 
but sometimes because they represent a phase of life, an 
aspect of contemporary history, or a personal influence 
of some significance. If objection is taken to the title 
on the ground that the book includes some who are 
neither prophets, priests, nor kings, I can only plead 
that a title is a trade-mark rather than a strict inventory 
of contents. I am indebted to the proprietors of the 
Daily News for permission to republish the articles which 
first appeared in the columns of their journal. 

October 1908. 

fioto by II'. S. Stuart, Richmond 


Tojace p. I 



CHARLES LAMB, referring to the fact that he had no ear 
for music, said he had been practising " God Save the 
King " all his life, humming it to himself in odd corners 
and secret places, and yet, according to his friends, had 
still not come within several quavers of it. Lamb did 
not know his good fortune. King Edward probably 
regards him as the most enviable man in history. For 
his Majesty would not be human if he did not tire of 
that eternal reminder of the gilded cage in which he is 
doomed to live. Does he go to Church, then " God 
Save the King " thunders through the aisles ; does he 
appear in public, then enthusiastic bandsmen salute him 
at every street corner with " God Save the King " ; does 
he go to a dinner, then grave citizens leap to their feet, 
and break out into " God Save the King." He cannot 
escape the Boeotian strain. He never will escape it. It 
is the penalty we inflict on him for being King. It is a 
penalty that should touch any heart to sympathy. If 
one were offered the choice, " Will you dwell at Windsor 
and hear 'God Save the King' morning, afternoon, and 
evening, at work and at play, at home and abroad, or 

2 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

work, a free man, in a coal mine ? " can there be any 
doubt what the answer would be if one were sane ? 

When the Archduke John of Austria disguised himself 
as a seaman and vanished for ever from the tyranny of 
Courts, he was regarded as a victim of mental aberration. 
He was, of course, one of the very sanest of men. 
No man in his senses would be a King if he could be a 
cobbler. For a cobbler has the two priceless privileges 
of freedom and obscurity, and a King has only a prison 
and publicity a prison, none the less, because its walls 
are not of stone, but of circumstance. The cobbler may 
have friends; but where among the crowd that makes 
eternal obeisance before him is the man whom the King 
can call friend ? Walled off from his kind, living in an 
unreal and artificial atmosphere of ceremonial, pursued 
by the intolerable limelight wherever he goes, cut off 
from the wholesome criticism of the world, fawned on by 
flunkeys, without the easy companionship of equals, 
without the healthful renovation of privacy, what is 
there in Kingship to make it endurable ? The marvel 
is not that Kings should so often fail to be Kings, but 
that they should ever succeed in being tolerable men. 

Now, King Edward is, above everything else, a very 
human man. He is not deceived by the pomp and 
circumstance in the midst of which it has been his lot 
to live, for he has no illusions. He is eminently sane. 
He was cast for a part in the piece of life from his 
cradle, and he plays it industriously and thoroughly ; 
but he has never lost the point of view of the plain man. 
He has much more in common with the President of a 
free State than with the King by Divine right. He is 
simply the chief citizen, primus inter pares, and the fact 
that he is chief by heredity and not by election does not 

The King 3 

qualify his view of the realities of the position. Unlike 
his nephew, he never associates the Almighty with his 
right to rule, though he associates Him with his rule. 
His common sense and his sense of humour save him 
from these exalted and antiquated assumptions. Nothing 
is more characteristic of this sensible attitude than his 
love of the French people and French institutions. No 
King by " Divine right " could be on speaking terms 
with a country which has swept the whole institution of 
Kingship on to the dust-heap. 

And his saving grace of humour enables him to enjoy 
and poke fun at the folly of the tuft-hunter and the 
collector of Royal cherry stones. He laughingly inverts 
the folly. " You see that chair," he said in tones of awe 
to a guest entering his smoking room at Windsor. 
" That is the chair John Burns sat in." His Majesty 
has a genuine liking for " J. B.," who, I have no doubt, 
delivered from that chair a copious digest of his Raper 
lecture, coupled with illuminating statistics on infantile 
mortality, some approving comments on the member 
for Battersea, and a little wholesome advice on the 
duties of a King. This liking for Mr Burns is as char- 
acteristic of the King as his liking for France. He 
prefers plain, breezy men who admit him to the common 
humanities rather than those who remind him of his 
splendid isolation. He would have had no emotion of 
pride when Scott, who, with all his great qualities, was 
a deplorable tuft-hunter, solemnly put the wine glass 
that had touched the Royal lips into the tail pocket of 
his coat, but he would have immensely enjoyed the 
moment when he inadvertently sat on it. 

He would laughingly disclaim that he was either a 
seer or a saint, though in his education every effort was 

4 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

employed to make him at once an Archangel and an 
Admirable Crichton. There has probably never been a 
personage in history upon whose upbringing there was 
expended so much thought and such variety of influ- 
ences as upon that of Albert Edward, Prince of Wales. 
There have been cases in which equal solicitude has 
been displayed by fond parents on behalf of their 
children. In the preface to Montaigne's Essays we are 
told that the great writer's father, resolved that his son 
should be a perfect Latinist, so arranged matters that 
the boy heard no language but Latin till he was seven 
or eight years of age. In his presence even the servants 
had to speak Latin or not at all, the result being that in 
Montaigne's native village there was for long afterwards 
a strong element of pure Latin in the local French. 
Montaigne was never allowed to be awakened suddenly, 
but was wooed back to consciousness by soft music 
played near his chamber. And so on. But this was a 
case of mere paternal affection. The education of the 
Prince of Wales, on the other hand, was a national, 
almost an international question. Baron Stockmar, the 
Coburg adviser of the Queen's family, wrote elaborate 
treatises on the subject, bishops and peers and educa- 
tionists were consulted, rival schemes of treatment were 
considered, and every precaution was taken to make the 
little Prince a prodigy of scholarship and a miracle of 

But there is no royal road either to saintship or know- 
ledge. The Prince was endowed neither with the 
attributes of intellectual passion, nor of mystical fervour, 
nor of artistic emotion, and the attempt to graft these 
upon the stem of ordinary human instincts was de- 
stroyed by the world of levity and flattery into which 

The King 5 

he was plunged as a young man. It is easy to cast 
stones at the King; but it would be more rational to 
ask how many of us would have come through such a 
career of temptation with a better record. When a distin- 
guished scientist, celebrated for his destructive criticism, 
was questioning the efficacy of prayer, he chose the Prince 
of Wales as his test. He was unfair both to the Prince 
and to prayer. It is true that the world has prayed much 
for King Edward. It is estimated on a modest calcula- 
tion that during sixty years a thousand million prayers 
have been offered on his behalf. But while the world 
prayed, instead of helping him to fulfil its prayers it 
encouraged him by its sycophancy to think he was a law 
unto himself, and left him in the heart of Vanity Fair, 
without a duty save a desolating ceremonial and the pur- 
suit of idle pleasure. And then, when a sudden flash of 
publicity has lit up some particular aspect of his private 
life, it has turned and rent him in a fury of righteous 
indignation. It is as irrational as King Theebaw, who, 
when his favourite wife lay sick unto death, prayed fer- 
vently to his gods and made extravagant promises of en- 
dowment of the temple, and, when she died, massed his 
artillery in front of the temple and bombarded it without 
mercy. It engineers a conspiracy to destroy character, 
and is astonished that the result is not a moral miracle. 

It is just, too, to remember that the King's private 
life is not only subject to a merciless scrutiny that the 
lives of his people are fortunately spared, and to the 
prurient gossip of every club idler ; but that his position 
denies him the defence which the law accords to humbler 
people. He must be mute under all attack. There is 
only one instance in which he has been heard in his own 
defence. It is the letter to Archbishop Benson, written 

6 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

after the Tranby Croft scandal, and published in the life 
of the Archbishop. In it he says : 

A recent trial which no one deplores more than I do, and which I 
was powerless to prevent, gave occasion for the Press to make most 
bitter and unjust attacks upon me, knowing that I was defenceless, 
and I am not sure that politics were not mixed up in it ! The 
whole matter has now died out and I think, therefore, it would be 
inopportune for me in any public manner to allude again to the painful 
subject which brought such a torrent of abuse upon me not only by 
the Press, but by the Low Church, and especially the Nonconformists. 

They have a perfect right, I am well aware, in a free country like 
our own, to express their opinions, but I do not consider that they 
have a just right to jump at conclusions regarding myself without 
knowing the facts. 

I have a horror of gambling, and should always do my utmost to 
discourage others who have an inclination for it, as I consider 
that gambling, like intemperance, is one of the greatest curses which 
a country could be afflicted with. 

Horse-racing may produce gambling or it may not, but I have 
always looked upon it as a manly sport which is popular with Eng- 
lishmen of all classes ; and there is no reason why it should be 
looked upon as a gambling transaction. Alas ! those who gamble 
will gamble at anything. I have written quite openly to you, my 
dear Archbishop, whom I have had the advantage of knowing for so 
many years. 

The sentiment of the letter which was, of course, 
published with the King's sanction is perhaps better 
than the logic ; but it reveals a man keenly sensitive to 
criticism under which he must be silent, and anxious to 
avoid collision with public opinion. An expression of 
horror at gambling was not lacking in courage in such a 
connection ; but the reference to horse-racing suggests 
that his Majesty does not quite appreciate the view of 
those who regard it not as evil in itself, but evil in its 
associations. No one imagines that horse-racing per se 
is immoral. Did not Cromwell own race-horses? He 
was a sportsman. But is Mr Robert Sievier a sportsman ? 
It is the parasite that is immoral, and his Majesty would 

The King 7 

do a lasting service to the sport that he loves, as well as 
to the commonwealth which is so largely his care, if he 
emphasised his horror of gambling, and gave his counte- 
nance to the suppression not of racing news, but of 
betting news, which brings to ruin multitudes who never 
see a horse-race, and which is poisoning the blood of the 
industrial classes. 

When Henry V. ascended the throne, and the news 
was borne to Falstaff, the boon companion of his riotous 
youth, that splendid vagabond turned to Pistol and said, 
" Ask what thou wilt : 'tis thine," and, calling for his 
horse, he hastened back to London to receive the rewards 
of friendship. But when he shouldered his way through 
the crowd and saluted the King as he rode from the 
Coronation, the monarch turned on him and cried : 

I know thee not, old man : Fall to thy prayers ; 
How ill white hairs become a fool and jester ! 

Presume not that I am the thing I was ; 

For Heaven doth know, so shall the world perceive 

That I have turned away my former self ; 

So will I those that kept me company. 

King Edward is not built in this heroic mould. He 
did not " turn away his former self" when he came to 
the Throne ; but he did reveal a seriousness of purpose 
and a delicate appreciation of his office that we were not 
entitled to look for from such an apprenticeship. He is, 
indeed, by far the ablest man and the best King his 
stock has produced. Contrast him with the Four Georges 
and he is an angel of light. Judged even by more severe 
standards, he emerges with credit. For he has that 
plainness of mind which is the best attribute of a 
constitutional monarch. Genius is the essential of an 
autocrat, for exceptional powers alone can justify and 

8 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

sustain exceptional pretensions. But in a constitutional 
monarch the best we can ask for is common sense and a 
nice regard for the true limits of the kingly function. 
And King Edward is in these respects an ideal King. 
He realises that his function is not active, but passive ; 
not positive, but negative. He has leaned to no party, 
cultivated no " King's men," aimed at no personal 
exaltation, uttered no " blazing indiscretion." Few men 
in his position would have done so well. No man with 
strong convictions, a forceful personality and what 
Meredith calls " an adventurous nose," would have done 
so well. We want a King whose convictions hang about 
him easily, "like an old lady's loose gown," who has 
many sympathies and no antipathies, who can be all 
things to all men, who, in fact, stands for citizenship, 
which is common, and not for sect or party, which is 
particular. We want, that is, a plain, prosaic, simple 
citizen, and that is King Edward's character. He is the 
citizen King, and the most popular of his line. If ever 
we have a man of genius as King, we shall probably end 
by cutting off his head. 

He is the Imperial smoother, and deserves the jolly 
title of " L'oncle de 1'Europe," which France has con- 
ferred on him. There is an avuncular benevolence 
about him which is irresistible. He likes to be happy 
himself, and he likes to see the world happy. Does 
Norway want a King ? Then he is the man to arrange 
it. Does the king lack a queen ? Who so accomplished 
to fill the role of uncle ? Does the King of Spain want, 
like Dame Marjory, to be " settled in life " ? Again he 
assumes the familiar part. And his activity does not 
end with marriage bells. He loves to play the part of 
missionary of peace. He plays it skilfully and consti- 

The King 9 

tutionally, and not in any assertive or authoritative 
spirit. He is far too astute for that, and they are his 
worst enemies who encourage the fatal theory that the 
King is his own Foreign Minister a theory which would 
make the external relations of a great people dependent 
on the private feelings of an individual whom it could 
not control, could not interrogate or depose, and whose 
mind it could not know. Nor is it only the graver 
aspects of his office that he takes seriously. He is 
equally solicitous about that life of etiquette and forms 
which is the affliction of kings. Should the Queen 
advance three steps or only two in receiving a parti- 
cular visitor is the kind of problem with which he will 
wrestle strenuously. These may seem negligible details 
to the plain man ; but the life of courts is made up of 
these niceties of deportment, which are not wholly idle, 
but may be the outward and visible sign of far-reaching 

Considering the delicate path he has had to tread in 
public and the fierce light that has beat upon it, he has 
made singularly few false steps. The exclusion of 
certain members from a garden party apparently because 
of a vote given by them in the House of Commons was 
a startling departure from correctitude that by its 
singularity emphasised the general propriety of a career 
which has been a model of public deportment. We can 
have no more sincere wish than that this country will 
have always upon the throne one who understands his 
place in the Constitution as well and does his task as 
honestly as Edward VII. 

I like to think of him as one sees him on those sunny 
days at Windsor when he holds his garden party, and 
moves about industriously smiling and gossiping, while 

io Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the band plays the interminable tune and the fashionable 
world crowds around him in eager anxiety for notice. 
It is then that one understands the boredom of Kingship, 
and the heroism that enables him to play his part so 
cheerfully and unfailingly. Hard by the brilliant scene 
you may come suddenly upon solitude and a colony of 
rooks holding high revel in the immemorial elms. Their 
cry the most ironic sound in Nature seems like a 
scornful comment on the momentary scene yonder and 
all it signifies. Perhaps when the shadows fall athwart 
the greensward and the last guest has gone, King Edward 
strolls off with a cigar to take counsel of these wise 
birds, who seem to know so well what is real and what is 
transitory, and tell it with such refreshing candour. 



To face p. ii 


LYING before me is a manuscript. It is written on 
large sheets of stout paper which have turned yellow 
with the years. The writing, that of a woman, is bold 
and free, as of one accustomed to the pen ; but the 
fashion of the letters belongs to a long-past time. It is 
an obituary notice of Florence Nightingale, written for 
the Daily News fifty-one years ago, when the most 
famous of Englishwomen was at the point of death. 
The faded manuscript has lain in its envelope for half a 
century unused. The busy pen that wrote it fell for 
ever from the hand of the writer more than thirty years 
ago, for that writer was Harriet Martineau. The subject 
of the memoir still lives, the most honoured and loved of 
all the subjects of the Sovereign. 

There are tears in that old manuscript, the generous, 
almost passionate, tears of a great soul stricken by a 
sore bereavement Miss Martineau was writing within 
three years of the Crimean war, when the name of 
Florence Nightingale still throbbed with memories vivid 
as last night's dream, and when her heroism had the 
dew of the dawn upon it. To-day that name is like a 
melody of a far-off time a melody we heard in the 
remotest days of childhood. Florence Nightingale ! 

It comes o'er the ear like the sweet South, 
Stealing and giving odour. 

12 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

It has perfumed the years with the fragrance of 
gracious deeds. I have sometimes idly speculated on 
the strange fortuity of names, on the perfect echo of the 
name to the deed Shakespeare, Milton, Wordsworth, 
Tennyson ! Why is it that the world's singers come 
heralded with these significant names ? Why is it that 
the infinite families of the Smiths and the Robinsons 
and the Joneses never sing? And Oliver Cromwell 
and John Churchill and Horatio Nelson ! Why, there 
is the roar of guns and the thunder of great deeds 
in the very accents of their names. And so with the 
heroines of history, the Grace Darlings and the Florence 
Nightingales. One almost sees in the latter case events 
carefully avoiding the commonplace and shaping a 
lustrous name for the wearer. For her mother was 
named Smith, the daughter of that William Smith, the 
famous philanthropist, and member for Norwich, who 
fought the battle of the Dissenters in Parliament, and 
was one of the leaders of the anti-slavery movement. 
And her father was named Shore, and only assumed the 
name of Nightingale with the estates that made him a 
wealthy man. " A rose by any other name," no doubt. 
But the world is grateful for the happy accident that 
gave it " Florence Nightingale." 

It is a name full of a delicate reminiscence, like the 
smell of lavender in a drawer, calling up memories of 
those from whose lips we first heard the story of " The 
Lady with the Lamp." It suggests not a personality, 
but an influence ; not a presence, but a pervasive spirit. 
For since that tremendous time, when the eyes of the 
whole world were turned upon the gentle figure that 
moved like a benediction through the horrors of the 
hospitals at Scutari, Miss Nightingale's life has had 

Florence Nightingale 13 

something of the quiet of the cloister. It is not merely 
that her health was finally broken by her unexampled 
labours : it is that, combined with the courage of 
the chivalrous world into which she was born, she has 
the shy reticence of a temperament that shrinks from 

This rare union of courage and modesty is illustrated 
by her whole career. When, after a girlhood spent in 
her native Italy for she was born in Florence, as her 
only sister, afterwards Lady Verney, was born in Naples 
and in wanderings in many lands, she decided on her 
life work of nursing, she returned from her hard appren- 
ticeship in many institutions, and especially in the 
Kaiserwerth Institution on the Rhine the first Protest- 
ant nursing home in Germany to take the management 
of the Sanatorium for Sick Ladies in Harley Street. In 
those days of our grandmothers, woman was still in the 
mediaeval state of development. She was a pretty 
ornament of the drawing-room, subject to all the pro- 
prieties expressed in " prunes and prisms." She had no 
duty except the duty of being pretty and proper, no 
part in the work of the world except the task of seeing 
that her overlord's slippers were in the right place. 

The advent of Florence Nightingale into Harley Street 
was like a challenge to all that was feminine and Early 
Victorian. A woman, a lady of birth and culture, 
as manager of an institution ! The thing was im- 
possible. The polite world thrilled with indignation 
at the outrage. "It was related at the time " I quote 
from the yellow manuscript before me " that if she had 
forged a bill, or eloped, or betted her father's fortune 
away at Newmarket, she could not have provoked a 
more virulent hue and cry than she did by settling 

14 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

herself to a useful work." And it was not society alone 
that assailed her now and later. " From the formalists 
at home, who were shocked at her handling keys and 
keeping accounts, to the jealous and quizzing doctors 
abroad, who would have suppressed her altogether, and 
the vulgar among the nurses, who whispered that she 
ate the jams and the jellies in a corner, she had all the 
hostility to encounter which the great may always expect 
from those who are too small to apprehend their mind 
and ways." But she had a dominating will and a dear 
purpose in all the acts of her life. She was indifferent 
to the judgment of the world. She saw the path, and 
trod it with fearless steps wherever it led. 

Within her sphere she was an autocrat. Lord Stan- 
more, in his Memoir of Sidney Herbert the War 
Minister whose letter inviting Miss Nightingale to go to 
the Crimea crossed her letter offering to go has criticised 
her severe tongue and defiance of authority. But in the 
presence of the appalling problem of humanity that faced 
her and her band of thirty-eight nurses, what were red 
tape and authority ? As she passed down through those 
four miles of beds, eighteen inches apart, each bearing 
its burden of pain and suffering, her passion of pity turned 
to a passion of indignation at the wanton neglect of the 
poor instruments of government, and she turned and 
rent the authors of the wrong. The hospital was chaos. 
There were neither hospital accessories, nor medical 
appliances, nor changes of clothing, nor proper food. 
It was a time for bitter speech and defiance of authority. 
And Florence Nightingale, her sight seared and her ears 
ringing with the infinite agony, thundered at the War 
Office until the crime was undone and her own powerful 
control was set up over all the hospitals of the East. 

Florence Nightingale 15 

And now the war is over, the long avenue of death 
and suffering that has been her home has vanished, and 
she sets sail for England. The world is ringing with 
her name. England awaits her with demonstrations of 
national gratitude unparalleled in history. She takes 
an assumed name, steals back by an unexpected route, 
and escapes exhausted and unrecognised to the peace of 
her father's house at Lea Hurst, in the quiet valley of 
the Derwent. And when later the nation expresses its 
thanks by raising a fund of ^50,000 for her benefit, she 
quietly hands it over to found the institution for training 
nurses at St Thomas's Hospital. And with that act of 
radiant unselfishness she establishes the great modern 
movement of nursing. Mrs Gamp flees for ever before 
the lady with the lamp. 

For Florence Nightingale is not a mere figure of 
romance. It is beautiful to think of the ministering 
angel moving with her lamp down the long lanes of pain 
at Scutari, to hear those pathetic stories of the devotion 
of the rough soldiers all writing down her name as the 
name they loved, of the dying boy who wanted to see 
her pass because he could kiss her shadow as it moved 
across the pillow. But there have been many noble and 
self-sacrificing nurses, many who had as great a passion 
for suffering humanity as hers. To think of her only as 
a heroine in the romance of life is to mistake her place 
in history. 

She is much more than that She is the greatest 
woman this nation produced in the last century. She is 
the type of the pioneer. She is one of those rare per- 
sonalities who reshape the contours of life. She was not 
simply the lady with the lamp : she was the lady with 
the brain. The hand that smoothed the hot pillow of the 

1 6 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

sufferer was the same hand that rent the red tape and 
broke, defiant of officialism, the locked door to get at 
the bedding within. Nursing to her was not a pastime 
or an occupation : it was a revelation. The child, whose 
dolls were always sick and being wooed back to life, 
who doctored the shepherd's dog in the valley of the 
Derwent, and bound up her boy cousin's sudden wound, 
was born with the fever of revolution in her as truly as 
a Danton or a Mazzini. She saw the world full of 
suffering, and beside the pillow ignorance and Sarah 
Gamp. Her soul revolted against the grim spectacle, 
and she gave herself with single-eyed devotion to the 
task of reform. 

Truly seen, the Crimean episode is only an incident 
in her career. Her title to rank among the great figures 
of history would have been as unchallengeable without 
that tremendous chapter. For her work was not inci- 
dental, but fundamental ; not passing, but permanent. 
She, too, divides the crown with " Old Timotheus " 

He raised a mortal to the skies, 
She brought an angel down. 

When good Pastor Fleidner, the head of the Kaisers- 
werth Institution, laid his hands at parting on her 
bowed head, she went forth to work a revolution ; and 
to-day every nurse that sits through the dim hours by 
the restless bed of pain is in a real sense the gracious 
product of that revolution. 

She has made nursing a science. She has given it 
laws ; she has revealed the psychology of suffering. 
How true, for example, is this: 

I have seen in fevers the most acute suffering produced from the 
patient in a hut not being able to see out of a window. ... I 
remember in my own case a nosegay of wild flowers being sent me, 
and from that moment recovery becoming more rapid. People say 

Florence Nightingale 17 

it is the effect on the patient's mind. It is no such thing ; it is on 
the patient's body, too. . . . Volumes are now written and spoken 
about the effect of the mind on the body. ... I wish more was 
thought of the effect of the body on the mind. 

She has moved mountains, but her ideal is still far off. 
For she wants not merely a profession of nurses, but a 
nation of nurses every mother a health nurse and every 
nurse " an atom in the hierarchy of the Ministers of the 
Highest." It is a noble dream, and she has brought it 
within the grasp of the realities of that future which, as 
she says, " I shall not see, for I am old." 

I put the yellow manuscript back into the envelope 
where it has lain for half a century. Sixteen hundred 
articles did Harriet Martineau write for the Daily News. 
They are buried in the bound volumes of the issues of 
long ago. One still remains unpublished, the last word 
happily still unwritten. 


MR MEREDITH is " the last leaf upon the tree in the 
spring." Mr Swinburne and Mr Hardy belong in some 
measure to our own generation, both in spirit and in 
time. But Mr Meredith gathered in his sheaves in that 
rich harvest time when Tennyson and Browning, Carlyle 
and Ruskin, Dickens and Thackeray were his fellow- 
gleaners ; when Darwin was recasting the history of man, 
as Copernicus had recast the structure of the heavens, 
and when Thomson was daily adding to the story of 
man's conquest over matter. He is the last of the 

It is nearly sixty years since Tennyson's ear caught 
a fresh note in the woodland song, a brave, joyous note, 
thrilling as the lark, pure as the nightingale. For young 
Meredith burst on the world singing that matchless 
" Love in the Valley," and Tennyson was haunted by 
its liquid, full-throated melody. It haunts us still. It 
will haunt the world for ever. For it is one of the 
indisputable things of literature. Listen : 

Happy, happy time when the white star hovers 

Low over dim fields fresh with bloomy dew, 
Near the face of dawn that draws athwart the darkness, 

Threading it with colour, like yewberries the yew. 
Thicker crowd the shades as the grave East deepens 

Glowing, and with crimson a long cloud swells. 
Maiden still the morn is ; and strange she is, and secret. 

Strange her eyes ; her cheeks are cold as cold sea-shells. 


To face p. 18 


George Meredith 19 

It was the glad song of the dawn. And now the long 
summer day has drawn to evening evening serene and 
joyous as the dawn : the deep, resonant voice clear and 
thrilling as of old, the light of the dark eye undimmed, 
the intellect undarkened, the frequent laughter buoyant 
and infectious as a child's. 

He is the spirit of unconquerable youth. He brings 
into our querulous and near-sighted time the spacious 
cheerfulness of a more confident day. " People talk about 
me," he says, " as if I were an old man. I do not feel 
old in the least. On the contrary, I do not believe in 
growing old, and I do not see any reason why we should 
ever die. I take as keen an interest in the movement 
of life as ever. I enter into the passions of youth, and I 
watch political affairs with the same keen interest as of 
old. I have seen the illusion of it all, but it does not 
dull my zest, and I hold more firmly than ever to my 
faith in the constant advancement of the race." 

Life to him is a gallant adventure of the soul. The 
victories of the common man are the victories of ponder- 
able things. They are recorded in the banker's ledger. 
George Meredith's career has been one long victory of 
the spirit a buoyant, indomitable spirit, all sunshine 
and fresh air. He is the captain of his unconquerable 
soul. Long years of failure and neglect could not sour 
him ; age cannot dull the edge of his blithe spirit. 
When, far away in the fifties, he was reduced to the 
last verge of impoverishment, he bought himself a sack 
of oatmeal, and having no money with which to get fuel, 
he subsisted on oatmeal and water, and on that Spartan 
diet wrote Evan Harrington, the most joyous comedy 
in the language, a novel full of singing of birds and 
light-hearted laughter, of the gaiety of the incomparable 

2o Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Countess, and of jolly cricket on the village green. 
And when the world would still have none of him, he 
cheerfully set himself to other tasks to win his bread, 
wrote "leaders" for the Ipswich Gazette, turned an 
honest penny as locum tenens for his life-long friend, 
Mr John Morley, on The Fortnightly, and having failed 
in his bid for a popular success wrote for himself, grow- 
ing ever more subtle and oblique, displaying ever more 
of the Virgil ian obscuris vera involvens. If he thought 
of his public at all he must have thought of it as Savage 
Landor thought " I shall dine late ; but the room 
will be well lighted, the company few and of the 

Success in the ordinary material sense has never come 
to him. The largest sum he has ever received for a 
novel, I believe, is 400, and even the ripple that Diana 
of the Crossways caused on the surface of the popular 
mind was due less to its amazing merits than to the 
fact of the supposed identification of Diana with 
Mrs Norton, who was said to have sold the famous 
secret to the Times. But he never asked for success. 
The joy of living has been all-sufficient. We catch a 
glimpse of him in middle life in Justin McCarthy's 
Reminiscences : 

He loved bodily exercises of all kinds ; he delighted to take long 
brisk walks " spins " as he called them along the highways and 
byways of the neighbourhood ; and he loved to wander through the 
woods and to lie in the grass, and I have no doubt he would have 
enjoyed climbing the trees. He seemed to have much of the 
temperament of the fawn ; he seemed to have sprung from the very 
bosom of Nature herself. ... It amazed me, when I first used to 
visit him, to see a man, no longer young, indulge in such feats of 
strength and agility. It delighted him to play with great iron 
weights, and to throw heavy clubs into the air and catch them as 
they fell and twirl them round his head as if they had been light 
bamboo canes. 

George Meredith 21 


The long country walks are over, and no longer he 
indulges in heroic feats with the clubs ; but all the rest 
is as of old. He has still the " temperament of the 
fawn " and the unquenchable passion for life. As you 
meet him driving on the country roads near his delight- 
ful little home under the shadow of Box Hill, you are 
arrested by the quick vivacious glance that roves the 
landscape and scans the passing faces with eager interest. 
And if you have the good fortune to go with him into 
his garden with the beautiful yew hedge and the little 
wooden chalet at the top of the garden slope, you will 
find his talk full of the light and laughter of youth, and 
you will find his attitude to the world reflected in his 
genial comradeship with his gardener, who is not a 
servant but an old friend. For he has none of the aloof- 
ness of genius that haughty pride that made Words- 
worth turn his back on De Quincey, who had dared to 
praise his mountains. Nothing to him is base or trivial, 
no one too slight for his joyous fellowship ; and so he 
enters into the heart of " Old Martin's Puzzle " as keenly 
as into the secret of the "hymning night/' and shares 
the careless gaiety of the boy as readily as the mystery 
of a woman's soul. There are no boys in literature like 
Meredith's boys, no cricket matches so full of the true 
glamour of the game as his. 

He has an intimacy with Nature which has nothing 
in common with that of the student who would " peep and 
botanise upon his mother's grave." It is intuition rather 
than erudition. He has not learned the secrets of 
Nature from without, but seems to come from the heart 
of Nature bearing those secrets with him. William Sharp 
records that he walked over from Meredith's one day 
to visit Grant Allen at Dorking. When he was about 

22 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

to return, Grant Allen said he would walk with him, 
as he wanted to ask Meredith about a disputed point 
in natural history. Sharp expressed surprise that a 
specialist like Allen should wish to consult an amateur 
on a matter of intimate knowledge and observation. 
" There are not half a dozen men living," replied Grant 
Allen, " to whom I would go in preference to Meredith 
on a point of this kind. He knows the intimate facts 
of countryside life as very few of us do after the most 
specific training. I don't know whether he could 
describe the greenfinch in the wild cherry yonder in the 
terms of an ornithologist and botanist in fact, I'm sure 
he couldn't. But you may rest assured there is no 
ornithologist living who knows more about the finch of 
real life than George Meredith does its appearance, 
male and female, its song, its habits, its dates of coming 
and going, the places where it builds, how its nest is 
made, how many eggs it lays and what like they are, 
what it feeds on, what its song is like before and after 
mating, and when and where it may best be heard, and 
so forth. As for the wild cherry . . . perhaps he doesn't 
know much about it technically ; . . . but if anyone can 
say when the first blossoms will appear and how long 
they will last, how many petals each blossom has, what 
variations in colour and what kind of smell they have, 
then it's he, and no other better. And as for how he 
would describe the cherry tree . . . well, you've read 
Richard Feverel and ' Love in the Valley,' and that 
should tell you everything." 

This delight in the visible, tangible phenomena of 
Nature distinguishes him from the mystics who, like 
Francis Thompson, "unsharing in the liberal laugh of 
earth," having no physical rapture, no sensuous joy in 

George Meredith 23 

things, see Nature only as the strange garment of 
their dreams 

How should I gauge what beauty is her dole, 
Who cannot see her countenance for her soul, 
As birds see not the casement for the sky ? 

Meredith loves the earth with the warm, homely love 
of a son for his mother. 

He is the lyric voice of Nature, as Wordsworth was 
her reverie. He turns to the East and the morning 
as instinctively as Wordsworth turned to the West 
and the glowing embers of the day. Like his own 
Lucy, Wordsworth " leaned his ear in many a secret 
place," and the beauty of the earth and the peace of 
Nature slid into his soul. To him, as to Beethoven, 
every tree seemed to cry " Holy, holy ! " The 
anthem of incommunicable things came to him out of 
the sunset and the silence of the starry sky and the 
quiet of the lonely hills. Nature was a Presence " to be 
felt and known in darkness and in light," a personal 
voice uttering its secrets in his reverent ear. It was the 
voice of God, and he the consecrated vehicle of its 
message. Meredith's attitude is more Pagan. He does 
not lean his ear in the secret place. He looks out on 
the universe with a delighted wonder, and surrenders 
himself to Nature " more joyfully than a deer lies down 
among the grass of spring." He 

. . . seats his soul upon her wings, 
And broadens o'er the windswept world 
With her, 

gathering in the flight 

More knowledge of her secret, more 
Delight in her beneficence, 
Than hours of musing, or the love 
That lives with men could ever give. 

24 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

For every elemental power 

Is kindred to our hearts, and once 

Acknowledged, wedded, once embraced, 

Once claspt into the naked life, 

The union is eternal. 

And out of that union with Nature comes the victory 
not the victory over things, but the victory over self. 
For the self is merged in the whole, the personal in the 
impersonal, the mortal in the immortal. We are made 
one with Nature. 

We are lost in the notes on the lips of the choir 
That chants the chant of the whole. 

In this joyous surrender of self there is nothing for tears, 
nothing to affright or dismay. The dawn is magical, 
but night is magical too. Life is a splendid pageant ; 
but Death has no terrors. He does not, like Keats, 
" call it soft names in many a mused rhyme," for he has 
nothing of the hectic morbidness of Keats. He wel- 
comes it rather as Whitman welcomed it as the strong 
deliverer. It is the arch wherethrough gleams the 
untravelled world : 

Death shall I shrink from, loving thee ? 
Into the breast that gives the rose 
Shall I with shuddering fall ? 

It is this unquestioning acceptance that fills the 
Meredithian world with such a sense of radiant opti- 
mism. He has written tragedies ; but he has not the 
spirit of tragedy. Stevenson called Richard Feverel 
a brutal assault upon the feelings, and complained that 
Meredith had played the reader false in starting a 
tragedy in the spirit of comedy. But the truth is that 
tragedy to be tragedy must have in it the terror of death 
as well as the lust of life. It must ask for an individual 
immortality and be denied. It must have the secret of 

George Meredith 25 

Hardy's sombre thought. He, too, sees Nature as a 
vast, sentient, inscrutable being ; but he sees man, not 
as a child taken to its bosom, but as a rabbit caught in 
its ruthless trap, crying, not for a vague absorption in 
Nature, but for its own personal, tangible existence. 
And out of that cry of terror comes tragedy. 

Meredith never touches the source of tears. He is the 
spirit of high comedy. He looks at life with a certain 
spacious calm, a serene tranquillity. His vision has 
something of the impartiality as well as of the veracity 
of Velasquez, something of the sovereign comprehension 
of Shakespeare. For with all his psychology and intro- 
spection his view is essentially objective. The world of 
men passes like a pageant before him, and he reads it as 
if it were a printed page. He sees life sanely and sees 
it whole, and he sees it with that robust and wholesome 
humour that keeps the vision true and the mind sweet 


I ASKED Mr Birrell on one occasion what he thought 
of the oratory of the present Parliament. 

" Oratory ! " he replied. " There is none. Parlia- 
mentary oratory is dead dead without hope of resurrec- 
tion. The House wouldn't listen to it to-day. The 
speeches it likes best are in the style of Asquith plain, 
lucid statements, gathering up all the arguments, the 
right word, the clean phrase and no frills." 

" And sincerity ? " I said. 

" Not a straw," he answered scornfully. " I left 

talking in the House just now." (We were dining 
below.) " He's as sincere as they make 'em, and the 
whole House is rocking with laughter. No, no a plain 
tale without any missionary fervour that's the thing 
that counts. Asquith is the model." 

I went into the House later in the evening, and there 
chanced to find Mr Asquith in the midst of a speech. 
He stood at the table firm as a rock, hard as adamant, 
his heavy voice beating out his theme with great hammer 
strokes, his eye fixed implacably on the front Opposition 
bench. So had I seen him stand fifteen years ago on 
the platform of a Northern town, while " Featherstone ! 
Featherstone ! Murderer ! " echoed round the hall. It 
was the greeting which always assailed him in those 
days. Possibly it assails him still. He stood with his 

Photo by Bertsford 

To face p. 26 


The Premier 27 

arms folded, the massive head thrown back, the strong 
mouth clenched, the cold eye lit with a certain amused 
indifference and contempt He made no protest, offered 
no comment, but allowed the cries to flicker out and 
then proceeded as though nothing had happened. Here 
was a man who at least was not afraid. He might be 
wrong ; but he would never run away. A man of 

Mr George Russell, I believe, has been heard to say 
that he envies the brain of Lord Milner more than that 
of any man living. Needless to say, he would have had 
it motived by other enthusiasms. If I were disposed to 
envy other people's brains and wanted power and not 
imagination, I should envy Mr Asquith's. It is of the 
same class as Lord Milner's, and, I think, better of its 
class. It is the Balliol brain at its best. It is in- 
comparably the most powerful intellect in the House of 
Commons to-day not the finest, nor the subtlest, nor 
the most attractive, but the most effective. It has none 
of the nebulous haze that invests Mr Balfour's mental 
evolutions, none of the cavalry swiftness of Mr Churchill 
or Mr Lloyd-George, none of the spaciousness and 
moral exhilaration of Lord Morley. It is dry and hard, 
lacks colour and emotion ; but it has weight, force, 
power. It is a piece of faultless mechanism. It works 
with the exactness of mathematics, with the massive, 
unhasting sureness of a natural force. It affects you 
like the machinery that you see pounding away in the 
hold so measured, so true, so irresistible. It is the 
Nasmyth hammer of politics. " Go and bring the 
sledge-hammer," said " C. B." to one of his colleagues on 
the Treasury bench in the midst of an attack by Mr 
Balfour. And Mr Asquith duly appeared. 

28 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

This mental precision is reflected in his tastes. He is 
an ingenious mechanic, and I have been told that years 
ago, when cycling was the sensation of the hour, he con- 
structed and rode a machine with so many original 
devices that the King, then Prince of Wales, invited him 
to make him one like it. Perhaps this is only one of 
those legends that gather about distinguished men ; but 
it is in keeping with the character. 

He has the directness of the Yorkshire stock from 
which he springs. " Asquith will get on," said Jowett, 
" he is so direct." He does not skirmish or finesse. 
He does not feint or flourish. He heaves himself on the 
enemy's centre and caves it in. The sentences of his 
orderly speech march into action like disciplined units, 
marshalled and drilled. Every word has its mark. At 
every sentence you see a man drop. He creates the 
impression of visible overthrow. It is as though you 
hear the blow crashing on his opponent's front, as though 
you see that opponent reeling to the ground. Take 
any of those speeches with which he pursued Mr 
Chamberlain through the country the Cinderford 
speech for example. It read like a succession of " bull's 
eyes " at a shooting range. You could see the flag go 
up at every sentence. " He talks like an advocate from 
a brief," said Mr Chamberlain bitterly. Perhaps it was 
so. But what a brief! What an advocate ! 

He has the terseness of phrase that is taught by the 
pen rather than by the tongue. The art is natural to 
his clear intellect, but it was perfected in those days 
when briefs were scarce, and when as a contributor to 
the Economist he acquired that mastery of economics 
and finance which made him supreme when the Free 
Trade issue emerged. " I forgot Goschen," said Ran- 

The Premier 29 

dolph Churchill. "I forgot Asquith" might be Mr 
Chamberlain's summary of that Titanic duel. He 
understands the value of brevity as no other man does. 
He can be compact as an essay of Bacon. His capacious 
mind brings up all his legions at will into one massive 
movement, and discharges them in a series of shocks. 
Take that instance when the House had been engaged 
in the familiar task of trying to discover whether Mr 
Balfour was a Free Trader or a Protectionist. The 
debate had reached its close. Mr Balfour was still both 
and neither. Mr Asquith rose, and in a speech of two 
minutes and half a dozen sentences left him a wreck, 
shattered fore and aft. 

He is the most powerful debater of his time. As a boy 
his gift of lucid statement and breadth of comprehension 
was apparent. When he came up from Yorkshire to 
the City of London School, Dr Abbott, the headmaster, 
was at once struck by his powers of debate. While the 
boys' society debated Dr Abbott corrected exercises. 
" But when Asquith entered the society," he said, " I 
began to find this difficult. . . . Finally, whenever he 
entered the lists of orators I resigned myself to a willing 
attention, and was content to take my exercises away 
with me uncorrected." He has nothing of the tumultuous 
energy and passion of Fox as pictured in Hazlitt : 

Everything showed the agitation of his mind : his tongue faltered, 
his voice became almost suffocated, and his face was bathed in 
tears. He was lost in the magnitude of his subject. He reeled and 
staggered under the load of feeling which oppressed him. He 
rolled like the sea beaten by a tempest. 

Mr Asquith does not roll like the sea. He stands, as 
Pitt stood, like a rock beaten by the sea. 

He creates confidence and carries conviction, but he 

3O Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

does not inspire men with great passions. His eloquence 
keeps to the solid earth : it does not fly with wings. 
It assures you victory ; but it denies you adventure. 
It is a favourite saying of Lord Morley that "great 
thoughts spring from the heart." Mr Asquith does not 
utter great thoughts. No Balliol man of the Jowett 
tradition does. The Balliol mind distrusts "great 
thoughts " even if it thinks them. It believes they come 
from weak minds and soft hearts from zealous persons 
with good emotions but defective intellects. Balliol, in 
fact, is really atrophy of the heart. It is exhaustion of 
the emotions. It has produced the finest mental machines 
of this generation, but they are sometimes cold and 
cheerless. They lack atmosphere and the humanities. 
They have none of our frailties. They are intellectual 
sublimities beneath whose huge legs we creep, " peeping 
about to find ourselves dishonourable graves." We 
admire them, we respect them : we do not love them, 
for we feel that they would be insulted by the offer of 
so irrational a thing as love. 

Mr Asquith is handicapped by this chill of the spirit. 
It gives him the sense of remoteness and hardness which 
those who know him best declare is unjust to the real 
man. Behind that exterior of adamant there are the 
shy virtues of geniality and even tenderness, and in 
personal contact you are impressed not merely by his 
masculine grip of affairs, but by his courtesy and con- 
sideration. But a popular figure he is not, perhaps does 
not seek to be. He comes to the front by sheer 
authority of intellect, and owes nothing to the magnetism 
of personality. He meets you in the office, not in the 
parlour of his thoughts. No genial stories gather about 
his personality. 

The Premier 31 

He has the merits as well as the defects of the Jowett 
tradition. It was material and unimaginative. It pro- 
duced Curzonism and Milnerism. It lacked sympathy 
and insight, because sympathy and insight, like great 
thoughts, spring from the heart. It built upon facts 
and scorned human sentiment, which is the greatest fact 
of all in the government of men. But it has the high 
quality of reserve. It cultivates no illusion, raises no 
false hopes. It understates itself with a certain cold 
indifference to popular applause. Its deeds are often 
better than its words; its Bills more drastic than its 

His power of work is unequalled, for the strength of 
his mind is backed by a physique equal to any burden. 
His capacious intellect grasps a subject in all its bearings 
with an ease and comprehensiveness that never fail to 
win the admiration of those who approach him. There 
is little subtlety in his thought, just as there is little 
delicacy in his utterance. It is a purely masculine under- 
standing, powerful and direct. He was in other days 

one of the society of "Souls"; but Que diable ? One 

would as soon look for Cromwell, of whom in feature 
and in some other respects he is reminiscent, among the 
curled Cavaliers, as for him in a dilettante circle. That 
was the natural element of Mr Balfour, who was fitted 
for the rdle of Mr Bunthorne. But there is nothing 
" precious " or transcendental in Mr Asquith's equip- 
ment. He is precise as a time-table. His vocabulary 
is abundant, but it consists wholly of plain, serviceable 
words, without a touch of emotion or imagination, and 
his vocabulary truly reflects his mental outlook. He is 
the constructive engineer of politics, not the seer of 
visions. He leaves the pioneering work to others and 

32 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

follows after with his levels and his compasses to lay out 
the new estate. No great cause will ever owe anything 
to him in its inception, but when he is convinced of its 
justice and practicability, he will take it up with a quiet, 
undemonstrative firmness that means success. It was so 
in the case of Old Age Pensions. He made no electoral 
capital out of them, seemed indeed to be unsympathetic. 
He had won the victory for you almost before you 
realised that he was on your side. No man in politics 
ever mortgaged the future less than he does, or lived 
less upon promissory notes. 

There has been nothing sensational or unexpected in 
Mr Asquith's career. He emerged with a natural in- 
evitableness. He came, he saw, he conquered. Oppor- 
tunity never found him unequal to the task. When in 
the Parnell trial Russell, owing to indisposition, left the 
cross-examination of Macdonald of the Times to him, 
it was felt that it was a grave misfortune, for here 
was the crux of the case. If this went wrong all might 
go wrong. When Mr Asquith sat down he had shattered 
the Times case and made his own reputation. When 
in 1892 Mr Gladstone entrusted him with the final attack 
on the Salisbury Government, he did so with hesitation. 
But after it he had no hesitation in making him Home 
Secretary. Mr Asquith, in fact, is the man who never 
fails. He is always intellectually bigger than his task. 

Two incidents in his career cannot be ignored. He, 
on the repeated telegraphic appeal of the Mayor, per- 
mitted military to reinforce the police in the Feather- 
stone colliery riots and two men were shot dead. It 
was a regrettable incident, of which, whatever may be 
our view of the facts, he has been adequately reminded 
at a hundred meetings since. And, though he believed 

The Premier 33 

the Boer War unnecessary, he dissociated himself from 
Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman and was one of the founders 
of the Liberal League that gathered around the disturb- 
ing figure of Lord Rosebery. Balliol did not come well 
out of the Boer War. But he never embittered an un- 
happy situation, and when peace returned he was one of 
those who healed the breach. I am, I believe, revealing 
an open secret when I say that he stood loyally by Sir 
Henry when the last rally of Imperialism sought to 
drive him, a roi faineant, to the House of Lords, and as 
his chief lieutenant his attitude won universal admira- 
tion, not for its cold correctitude, but for its generous 
and warm-hearted service. No one in the Cabinet was 
more loyal to the Premier than he was, and none of those 
who heard it will forget the noble speech he made on 
the occasion of his leader's death. It was a speech that 
sounded unsuspected depths of emotion, and seemed for 
once to lift the fire-proof curtain of his reserve. 

His succession to the Premiership was a matter of 
course. And as Premier he is not inferior to a great 
lineage. He does not command the affection that Sir 
H. Campbell-Bannerman commanded, nor the reverence 
that was Gladstone's. But he commands in a rare 
degree the confidence of his party, and his handling of 
the Parliamentary machine, at once masterful and adroit, 
has commanded universal admiration. He is slow to 
take up adventurous causes, but, once convinced, he has 
unequalled power to give them shape and, in doing so, to 
carry the conviction that comes from his own secure and 
unimpassioned intellect to that timid public who see the 
dread form of " Socialism " in every effort after a more 
just and therefore more firmly-rooted State. 


MR A. J. BALFOUR has probably done the greatest 
service to his country of any man of his time. He has 
saved it from Protection. 

When Mr Chamberlain came back from South Africa 
with the full knowledge of his failure, he resolved on one 
last desperate throw. He would blot out the past. He 
would set up a new fever in the blood. Philip sober 
should be Philip drunk again. " You can burn all your 
political leaflets and literature," he said to Mr Herbert 
Gladstone, the Liberal Whip, in the lobby one day. 
" We are going to talk about something else." And so 
he gathered up all the forces of wealth and interest 
into one frenzied assault on the economic fabric of the 
State. All his hopes hung upon instancy. There must 
be no time for the country to recover its equilibrium. 
It must give its decision while it was reeling under the 
impact of the blow. It must be carried by storm. 

And it was nearly carried by storm. Looking back 
on the tornado that began at Glasgow and burst at the 
Guildhall, it is difficult to resist the conclusion that, 
had Mr Chamberlain got an appeal to the country 
forthwith, he would have won. His calculations were 
sound. Philip was momentarily drunk with the new 
wine. He forgot the past ; he lost his reason ; he was 
at the mercy of the adventurer. But the debauch was 


Photo by London Stereoscopic Co. 


Tojace p. 34 

Arthur James Balfour 35 

brief, and every day of returning sobriety was a new 
defence flung up against the attack. Mr Chamberlain 
was destroyed by delay. And it was Mr Balfour who 
wrought that delay. 

To this hour no man can say what his motive was in 
carrying on that amazing duel with his impetuous rival. 
Perhaps it was personal, for the triumph of Mr 
Chamberlain meant Mr Balfour's definite deposition. 
Perhaps it was for the sake of the party, for the adoption 
of Protection involved an organic change in its character 
and aim. Perhaps it was the love of a situation which 
called out all the resources of his astonishing intellectual 
agility. Certainly it was not devotion to Free Trade 
nor antagonism to Protection, for he cares for neither. 

He cares for neither because he is essentially a 
fatalist. He looks out on life with a mingled scorn and 
pity scorn for its passionate strivings after the un- 
attainable, pity for its meanness and squalor. He does 
not know the reading of the riddle, but he knows that 
all ends in failure and disillusion. Ever the rosy dawn 
of youth and hope fades away into the sadness of even- 
ing and the blackness of night, and out of that blackness 
comes no flash of revelation, no message of cheer. 

The Worldly Hope men set their hearts upon 
Turns Ashes or it prospers ; and anon 
Like Snow upon the Desert's dusty Face 
Lighting a little Hour or two is gone. 

Why meddle with the loom and its flying shuttle? 
We are the warp and weft with which the great Weaver 
works His infinite design that design which is beyond 
the focus of all mortal vision, and in which the glory of 
Greece, the pomp of Rome, the ambition of Carthage, 
seven times buried beneath the dust of the desert, are 

36 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

but inscrutable passages of glowing colour. All our 
schemes are futile, for we do not know the end, and 
that which seems to us evil may serve some ultimate 
good, and that which seems right may pave the path to 
wrong. In this fantastic mockery of all human effort 
the only attitude is the " wise passiveness " of the poet. 
Let us accept the irrevocable fate unresistingly. 

In a word, Drift. That is the political philosophy of 
Mr Balfour. 

What, then, brings him into the world of affairs ? If 
all action is idle, if interference with the machine is 
foolish impertinence, a meddling with what we do not 
understand and cannot control, why quit the Whittinge- 
hame woodlands for the field of battle ? The explanation 
is twofold. He enters Parliament to protect the privi- 
leges of his caste and to taste the joys of intellectual 

In defending his caste he is absolutely sincere, even 
disinterested and patriotic. He believes in the rule of 
the aristocracy, not in the naive, bucolic way of Mr 
Chaplin, the last of the " squires," but intellectually. 
He does not regard the democracy with animus, but as 
uninstructed and sometimes unruly children, whom it is 
his task to keep out of mischief. Pity for the poor was 
bred in him in those far off-days of the Lancashire cotton 
famine, when his mother taught her children to forego 
their little luxuries in order to contribute to the funds 
for the starving operatives. But it is pity for an inferior 
creation with which he has no common fellowship. He 
dwells in another hemisphere, breathes another atmos- 
phere. There is no vain assumption in this. It is a 
plain, indisputable fact of existence, about which he 
would as little think of being vain as he would of the 

Arthur James Balfour 37 

fact that he stands six feet two or so. He is too astute 
and too delicate in feeling to express his contempt for 
the people with the brutal candour of his godfather, the 
Iron Duke; but essentially his view of democracy is 
Wellingtonian. It is this aloofness which has prevented 
him being a popular figure, just as it prevented his uncle 
from ever touching the heart of the rank and file even 
of his own party. For Toryism, though essentially an 
aristocratic system, has to wear the disguise of demo- 
cracy to affect a virtue even if it have it not. Whenever 
it has become vital, it has been at the inspiration of some 
man who has appealed frankly to the democracy, not 
from the elevation of a superior caste, but as the authen- 
tic voice and obedient instrument of its needs and 
aspirations. It was so that Disraeli, Lord Randolph 
Churchill, and Mr Chamberlain in turn breathed upon the 
dry bones of Toryism and made them live. The Cecil 
philosophy cannot win the democracy : it can only use it. 

This conception of aristocratic rule extends to the 
realm of race. In all his career Mr Balfour has never 
lifted his hand or raised his voice on behalf of an op- 
pressed people. It is not that he is wanting in sympathy. 
It is simply that he is on the side of the aristocratic 
authority. If the Russian knouts the Jew and the 
Turk slays the Armenian, he is sorry for Jew and 
Armenian. But they are the under-dog : they must 
suffer. If they rebel they must be punished. It is not 
that he bears malice against Jew or Armenian. If they 
were the aristocrats in the racial conflict, he would be on 
their side. He reverses that saying of Goethe's that 
" when the people rebel the people are always right." 
When the people rebel the people are always wrong. 

Hence his memorable tenure of the Irish Secretaryship. 

38 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

The Irish were to him a mutinous nursery in revolt 
against the authority of an aristocratic rule. His uncle 
called them Hottentots. Mr Balfour was less pictur- 
esque, but no less emphatic. He did not hate the Irish : 
he only despised them. "They have great gifts," he 
was not unfairly represented as saying ; " they have wit, 
imagination, eloquence, valour ; in many respects they 
are our superiors. But in one respect they are our 
inferiors, and no amount of Gladstonian rhetoric can 
make them otherwise. They are politically incapable 
of self-government. Why not govern them as the 
Scotch, you ask ? Because they are not the Scotch. 
They cannot be trusted to govern themselves, for the 
simple and sufficient reason that Providence, in giving 
them many gifts, omitted to give them the qualities 
which ensure stable self-control." And so he whipped 
them, put them in prison, turned them naked and home- 
less on to the roadside. There was no bitterness in this. 
He did it honestly for their good. He did it in obedi- 
ence to a considered philosophy. The Irish were children 
in rebellion : they must be broken with the rod. 

It is this aristocratic detachment from realities that 
is at the root of all his mistakes. He cannot enter into 
the mind of the inferior castes. He cannot understand 
that if you prick them, they will bleed. Their resentment 
fills him with sincere amazement with a certain sadness 
at their want of gratitude. His surprise at the passion- 
ate indignation of the Nonconformists in regard to the 
Education Act was not affected. He still believes that 
these good people honest, but dull and unenlightened 
did not know their blessings. It is not that he deliber- 
ately outrages sentiment that he does not share : it is 
that he is insensible to it. 

Arthur James Balfour 39 

His vision of society is of a refined company, dowered 
with delicate appetites and gracious sentiments, and 
protected from the raging mob without by a moral 
police that is crumbling away and by the more material 
defence of ancient privilege sustained by the authority 
of law. Within there is abundance for all light and 
air, music and perfumes. The mob at the gate clamours 
to share these, and he does not blame them. But he 
would hold them at bay, because he believes that their 
triumph would mean the desolation of the little oasis 
of culture that is the one reality worth preserving in this 
phantasmal world. It is not animus against the mob 
that governs him, but the passion to hold the one 
priceless thing. Nor is it, perhaps, the sense of aristo- 
cratic exclusiveness. He believes that the ravage of his 
oasis would bring no joy to the hungry horde. It would 
only blot out the beauty that is the flower of the ages 
and leave the land 

A wilderness indeed, 
Peopled with wolves, its old inhabitants. 

And the other reason for his presence in politics is to 
"drink delight of battle with his peers." The House of 
Commons is the first debating society in the world, and 
Mr Balfour is the supreme debater. On the platform 
he is dull and uninspiring, for he has no message for 
his time ; but on the floor of the House he is the incom- 
parable swordsman. His spirits rise with the combat. 
The worse the case, the more desperate the attack, the 
more formidable he becomes. The air of slack nerve- 
lessness vanishes. Every faculty awakes to astonishing 
activity. He twists and turns with diabolical elusiveness. 
A dozen swords are at his throat, and lo ! he is under 
the enemy's guard and through them, dealing venomous 

4O Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

thrusts on every vulnerable point. He clouds the issue 
with the dust of his dialectics and with a sudden flank 
movement changes the whole face of the battle. His 
one weapon of defence is to attack. If he cannot meet 
the enemy on the ground they have chosen, he wheels 
round to a new position, and before they realise that he 
has escaped they are defending themselves in the rear. 
There was truth as well as vanity in his complaint that 
" the House of Commons did not extend his mind." 
Parliament has never witnessed so accomplished an 
intellectual gymnast. There is only one rival to him in 
these days, and I was not surprised when the Bishop of 
Southwark one day told me that Mr Balfour had great 
admiration for Mr G. K. Chesterton. 

But the country is not governed ultimately by 
intellectual gymnastics. It is amused by them ; it ap- 
plauds them ; and it distrusts them. Mr Balfour wins 
his dialectical battles and loses his campaign. He is at 
once the hope and the despair of his party. They cannot 
replace his leadership in the House, where intellectual 
address is necessary ; they cannot survive his leadership 
in the country, where moral purpose alone counts. If 
Toryism is to rise from its ashes it must make some 
appeal to the hearts and imaginations of men. It must 
believe. And Mr Balfour does not believe. He is a 
creature of negations and doubts. " You cannot fill 
your belly on the east wind," said the wise man. The 
people ask for bread, and Mr Balfour offers them the east 
wind of a withering intellectuality. 

He breathes no moral oxygen into the air. The 
murmurs and the agonies of men touch him to no 
passionate purpose. They cry, and, like those gods of 

Arthur James Balfour 41 

He hears a music centred in a doleful song, 

Steaming up a lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong, 

Like a tale of little meaning, though the words are strong. 

Ireland asks for the deliverance of a dying people, and 
he says, " Don't hesitate to shoot." Macedonia cries its 
ancient cry, and he discusses " the balance of criminality." 
Outraged citizens ask for defence against the madness 
of a mob, and he talks of " the limits of human endurance." 
Temperamentally, he belongs to the aesthetic cult of 
the eighties the cult satirised so ruthlessly by Du 
Maurier and Gilbert, languorous and intellectually 
sensuous, to whom the decorations of life music, art, 
literature are the only realities. He is a man of 
emotions, without a moral. He would 
Die of a rose in aromatic pain. 

Charm he has in a high degree ; but it is an illusive 
charm. His address is curiously winning and appeal- 
ing ; but politically it has no basis in loyalty or 
rooted affection. He smiles upon his friends and leaves 
them to the wolves. No man ever had a more 
chivalrous follower than he had in George Wyndham, 
but when the Ulster pack were hot upon the scent 
he sacrificed him without a word sacrificed George 
Wyndham to Sir Edward Carson ! Even the ties of 
blood are no check to this incurable disloyalty. He 
saw his cousin, Lord Hugh Cecil, the ablest man on 
his side, hounded from the party by the Protectionists, 
and never lifted a finger to save him. He saw honest 
Sir Edward Clarke hounded from the City, and remained 
darkly silent. 

It follows naturally from this that he is acutely jealous 
of his honour. Nothing moves him to such brilliant 
frenzy as the least hint of a stain there. Nothing 

42 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

wounds him so much as a word of reproach from those 
whose loyalty and honour are above challenge. A 
rebuke from Sir Edward Grey cuts him to the quick, 
and it was only when the Duke of Devonshire left his 
Ministry with words of blunt candour that he was stung 
into shrill and eager defence of his impenetrable policy. 

He has a feminine sensitiveness to personality. He 
takes the criticism of Mr Asquith cheerfully, but Mr 
Churchill fills him with petulant resentment. It is the 
resentment of the aristocrat against one who, in his 
view, is disloyal to his caste. It is the resentment, 
too, of a mind of subtle refinements against one who 
is broad and popular, and who, he suspects, deliberately 
appeals to the gallery. He used to flee from the 
House in ostentatious scorn when Mr Churchill assailed 
him. As he was disappearing on one of these occasions, 
Mr Churchill, secure in his triumph, cried, " The right 
hon. gentleman need not leave the House. I am not 
going to refer to him." Amidst the shout of laughter 
that followed, Mr Balfour turned, and a word of wither- 
ing scorn was seen rather than heard to issue from his 

It is the highest testimony to the fascination of his 
personality, and the honesty of his point of view, that, 
in spite of his provocative policy and an ingenuity of 
mind that suggests disingenuousness, he has no enemies. 
His smile disarms you. It has been called the chief 
asset of his party, and it is certainly irresistible. Even 
the Irishmen, when they emerged from prison, were 
conciliated by its tender sympathy. He inquired after 
their health. He hoped they had not been incon- 
venienced. It was all done quite simply and sweetly. 
He leaves nothing to rankle in the wound he makes. 

Arthur James Balfour 43 

His future is the most interesting problem in politics. 
He retains the titular leadership ; but the army has 
passed him by. It has gone over, horse, foot, and 
artillery, to a new idea. It openly scoffs at him. 
It distrusts his lukewarm surrender. Its most powerful 
voices in the Press have called repeatedly for his de- 
position. He is without a policy, without a following, 
without a purpose. He has nothing but a crown. It 
is the crown of Richard the Second. His party only 
await the advent of Henry Bolingbroke. 


I ONCE had the duty of presiding at a gathering as- 
sembled to hear an address by Mr Bernard Shaw. 
"What is the title of your lecture?" I asked. "It 
hasn't got one," he replied. "Tell them it will be 
announced at the close." I did so, adding that after- 
wards he would answer any reasonable questions. " I 
prefer unreasonable questions," he said in a stage 
whisper. For forty minutes he poured out a torrent 
of mingled gibes at his audience, flashes of wit and 
treasures of good sense. Then he leapt into his coat, 
seized his umbrella, cut his way through his admirers 
with good-humoured chaff, suffered the addresses of an 
old Irish lady who had known him in childhood and 
was as voluble as himself, and finally fled along Regent 
Street " like a soul in chase," his tongue flaying all 
created things, until at a " tube " station he turned on 
his heel and vanished as if by magic. 

It was like the hurry of the wind, keen as a razor, dry 
and withering as the east. Mind and body alike at the 
gallop trained down to the last ounce. He is a hurri- 
cane on two legs a hurricane of wrath flashing through 
our jerry-built society. He is the lash laid across the 
back of his generation. He whips us with the scorpions 
of his bitter pen, and we are grateful. He flings his 
withering gibes in our faces and we laugh. He lampoons 

Photo l>y I listed 

To face p. 44 


George Bernard Shaw 45 

us in plays and we fight at the pay box. We love 
him as Bill Sikes' dog loved that hero because he 
beats us. 

His ascetic nature revolts at our grossness. I once 
invited him to a dinner to a colleague. He accepted 
the invitation and came when the dinner was over. 
He would not sit at meat with men who eat flesh like 
savages, fuddle their brains with wine, pollute the air 
with filthy smoke. Lady Randolph Churchill has 
recorded that when she invited him to dinner he 
declined to come and " eat dead animals." 

What can we look for, he asks, from a society based 
on such loathsome habits except the muddle we are in 
a morass of misery and sweated labour at the bottom 
sustaining an edifice of competitive commerce as greedy 
as it is merciless ; at the top a nauseous mixture of 
luxury and flunkeyism. Waste and disorder everywhere : 
religion an organised hypocrisy; justice based on 
revenge which we call punishment ; science based on 
vivisection, Empire based on violence. God, perchance, 
is in heaven, but all's wrong with the world. What can 
a reasonable man do but war with it ? " What are you 
people crowding here for ? " he asked a fashionable 
audience at an anti-sweating meeting. "To hear me 
gibe at you, not because you care a rap for the wretched 
victims of your social system. If you cared for them 
you would not come here for amusement. You would 
go outside and burn the palaces of fashion and commerce 
to the ground." 

He has in an unrivalled degree the gift of being 
unpleasant. It is a rare gift. Most of us, even the 
worst of us perhaps, especially the worst of us are 
full of tenderness for the susceptibilities of others. We 

46 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

cultivate the art of polite falsity, because to give pain 
to others is so great a pain to ourselves. We are like 
the Irish driver in John Butts Other Island- "Sure 
he'd say whatever was the least trouble to himself and 
the pleasantest to you." We lack the courage to be 
unkind. If we stab at all we prefer to do it in the back. 
Mr Shaw enjoys giving pain because he knows it does 
you good. He cuts you up with the scientific serenity of 
an expert surgeon who loves the knife. He probably 
never paid a compliment to anyone save Mr Bernard 
Shaw in his life. When a well-known Free Trader, now 
in Parliament, sat down after reading an elaborate paper 
before the Fabian Society, Mr Shaw rose, and observed : 
" We have come to the end of the intolerable tedium 
inflicted upon us. It is incredible that anyone should 
have prepared this crude alphabet of the subject, above 
all for the Fabian Society." There is something to be 
said for Mr Shaw's frankness. It clears the air. It tears 
away the cloak of shams, and confronts us with the 
naked realities. It does not make him loved ; but, then, 
he would hate to be loved. He rather loves to be 

He has spoken of himself somewhere as being "by 
temperament economically minded and apprehensive to 
the point of old-maidishness." It is a happy figure. He 
is like an elderly spinster, with a fierce passion for order 
and a waspish tongue, coming into a house turned upside 
down by a crowd of boisterous, irresponsible children. 
Of these, by far the worst are the English the dull, 
unimaginative English, full of illusions and incompetence 
and unctuous humbug, with " the cheerful bumptiousness 
that money, comfort, and good feeding bring to all 
healthy people." A nation of Tom Broadbents, made 

George Bernard Shaw 47 

great by coal and iron and the genius of quicker and 
more imaginative peoples. " The successful Englishman 
to-day," he says, " when he is not a transplanted Scotch- 
man or Irishman, often turns out on investigation to 
be, if not an American, an Italian, or a Jew, at least 
to be depending on the brains, the nervous energy, 
and the freedom from romantic illusions (often called 
cynicism) of such foreigners for the management of 
the sources of his income." But he loves the English- 
man, and he will tell you frankly why. He loves 
him because he is fool enough to make a lot of 
Bernard Shaw. 

He is the Swift of his time. He is filled with acid 
scorn at the follies of men. He has no reverence and 
no respect for the reverences of others. Religion to him 
is like a fog in the mind, blurring the vision of realities. 
" Ecrasez tlnfdme" he would say with Voltaire, and he 
looks for the age of pure reason, when intellect shall 
have straightened out all the tangled skein of life, and 
men, resting secure in their sciences and utilities, shall 
laugh at the pathetic superstitions of their fathers, and 
turn with content to the exquisite syllogism of material 
things that they have put in their place. It is not a 
new dream. It is a dream as old as the conflict between 
intellect and emotion. It is based upon the assumption 
that the human soul has no yearning that cannot be 
satisfied by the scientific adjustment of our material 
relationships to the universe, a theory to which the 
Aristotelian replies that social wrong is only the symbol 
of spiritual wrong, and that spiritual remedies will alone 
heal what is ultimately a spiritual malady. Mr Shaw 
sees everything sharp and clear, and without atmos- 
phere. He is all daylight ; but it is a daylight that does 

48 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

not warm. It is radiant, but chilling. He affects you 
like those March days when the east wind cuts through 
the sunshine like a knife. 

But if he has the scorn of Swift, he has none of his 
morbidness. It was said of Swift that he had "the 
terrible smile." It was the smile that foreshadowed 
insanity. Mr Shaw has the smile of sardonic sanity. 
Max Beerbohm's caricature of him as Mephistopheles, 
holding his forked tail with one hand, nursing his red 
beard with the other, is astonishingly true in spirit. As 
he leaps to his feet, straight and lithe, with that bleak 
'smile upon his lips, you feel that here is a man who sees 
through all your cherished hypocrisies, and can freeze 
up all your emotions. He sprays you with acid like an 
insect, and you curl up. 

Like the Fat Boy in Pickwick, he " wants to make 
your flesh creep, mum." Mrs Grundy is always pre- 
sent to his mind the symbol of smug self-satisfaction, 
of ignorant content, of blind superstition, the symbol, in 
fact, of English society. He has a double motive in 
shocking her. It appeals to his Puck-like instinct for 
mischief. He loves to see the look of horror overspread 
her features as he smashes her idols. But there is a 
more serious purpose behind his iconoclasm. He breaks 
the image in order to restore the reality. Shakespeare 
is a fetish, and he tells you he is a greater than Shake- 
speare. The English home is the Englishman's boast, 
and he tells you that it is the source of our selfish 
exclusiveness, and that no good will be done till it is 
destroyed. " Pull down the walls," he would say with 
Plato : " they shelter at best a restricted family feeling ; 
they harbour at the worst avarice, selfishness, and greed. 
Pull down the walls and let the free air of a common 

George Bernard Shaw 49 

life blow over the place where they have been." Or, as 
Whitman expresses it : 

Unscrew the locks from the doors ! 
Unscrew the doors themselves from their jambs ! 
By God ! I will accept nothing which all cannot have their 
counterpart of on the same terms. 

He is careless about having a beautiful home : he 
wants a beautiful city. He is indifferent about his 
wife's diamonds : he wants to see the charwoman 
and the sempstress well dressed. If they are not he 
would send them to prison. For his philosophy comes 
from " Erewhon," where poverty and illness were the 
only punishable crimes. " If poor people were given 
penal servitude instead of sympathy, there would soon 
be an alteration for the better," he says, with his char- 
acteristic extravagance. " The love of money is the 
root of all evil," we say unctuously as we snatch for 
more. "Money is the most important thing in the 
world," he says. " It represents health, strength, honour, 
generosity, and beauty, as undeniably as the want of 
it represents illness, weakness, disgrace, meanness, and 
ugliness." " Flee from sin," says the preacher. " Flee 
from poverty, which is the root of sin," says Mr Shaw. 

He is a preacher in cap and bells. He calls the crowd 
together with the jingle of jest, and then preaches his 
sermon in extravagant satire. He is so terribly in 
earnest that he cannot be serious. Least of all is he 
serious about himself. He is himself his own gayest 
comedy. " I have been hurt to find myself described as 
a middle-class man," he says. " I am a member of the 
upper classes. My father was a second cousin to a 
baronet That is what gives me self-respect and solidity 
of standing." His father was an ex-Civil servant in 


50 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Dublin, who invested his money in flour-milling " and a 
most surprising failure he made of it." His mother kept 
the pot boiling by teaching music, and young Shaw 
earned 18 a year as a clerk. At twenty he came to 
London and passed several years in an atrociously seedy 
condition. " I haven't a penny in the world," said a 
beggar to him one night. " Neither have I," said the 
delightful Shaw, with cheerful comradeship. He lived 
on his parents, who found it difficult to live on them- 
selves. He is not ashamed : he boasts of it. " I did 
not throw myself into the struggle for life : I threw my 
mother into it." He wrote novels which nobody read, 
scintillated in the Star as a musical critic, helped to 
found the Fabian Society, wrote plays on the tops of 
omnibuses, married " for money," he will tell you with 
engaging raillery, while his charming wife smiles at his 
rogueries and became the idol of the intellectuals and 
the most piquant figure in the English-speaking world. 

He is a gentleman of fortune, living upon his wits, 
his sword ever in his hand. He comes into your midst 
with the tail of his coat trailing on the floor. What, sir, 
you will not tread upon the tail of my coat ? You will 
not fight ? You have no quarrel, sir ? A fig for a 
quarrel ! I will tweak your nose, sir ! And what a 
duellist the fellow is ! What irony, what jest, what 
diabolical self-composure ! His wit is as swift as the 
lightning, as happy as the song of birds. " Boo ! " 
roared a voice from the gallery when he came forward, 
amid thunders of applause, at the close of one of his 
plays " Boo." " I agree with you, sir," he said ; " but 
what are we two against so many ? " " Mr Shaw," said a 
friend who had beguiled him to hear a string quartette from 
Italy, and, finding him bored, sought to wring a word of 

praise from him "Mr Shaw, these men have been playing 
together for twelve years." " Twelve years ? " yawned 
G. B. S. " Surely we've been here longer than that." 

He is pure intellect, without illusion and without 
emotions. His art is the art of ideas and not of senti- 
ment. He denounces love because his asceticism revolts 
from the sensuousness that is the desecration of love. 
He denounces conventional morality because he is so 
fierce a moralist. He denounces the law because of his 
passion for justice. He has such an enthusiasm for 
humanity that he would put the poor in gaol because of 
their poverty and misery. He would punish the people 
who have the wickedness to be ill ; but he would treat 
the criminal as we treat invalids. For the sickness of 
the body is our own wrong, the outrage of natural laws ; 
the sickness of the mind is the wrong imposed on us by a 
false and vicious social system. In all this topsy-turvey- 
ism he is astonishingly sane. I know of no political writing 
which goes so ruthlessly to the heart of realities as his 
prefaces to his plays. Take, for example, his treatment 
of the Irish question. " Home Rule means Rome rule," 
cry the Protestant Nonconformists. He turns the aphor- 
ism inside out. " England in Ireland is the Pope's 
policeman," he says, and proves it. " Shaw has stated 
the Irish case once and for all," said John Dillon to me. 

He is the tonic of his time, very bitter to the taste, 
but stimulating. He clears the mind of cant. He clears 
the atmosphere of fog. He is admirable in small doses ; 
but as a sustained diet I say it with the comfortable 
knowledge that he is not by he is inferior to Shake- 
speare. " The professional moralist," it has been said, 
" is moral by the strength of his antipathies ; Shakespeare 
is moral by the strength of his sympathies." Mr Shaw 

52 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

is all antipathies. He is " agin " everything, from the 
government of the universe to the starch in your collars 
and the blacking on your boots. He has never agreed 
with anybody or anything. He rests on himself, secure 
and self-assertive his intellect against the world. You 
turn from his cold lucidity and magnificent cocksureness 
to the men who speak not to the intellect alone, but to 
the heart, who are not merely humanitarians, but human 
beings, who say with Lowell that they believe more than 
they can give a reason for, and with Carlyle that all our 
sciences are nothing beside that great deep sea of 
nescience on which we float like exhalations that are 
and then are not. Realities are much ; but the mystery 
that invests being is more. The mind is wonderful, but 
no less real are the emotions of the soul. Let us have a 
clear intellect ; but it is an arid world that shuts out the 
intuitions of the heart. 

I see the curl on Mr Bernard Shaw's lips. " Cant," he 
says. " The cant of these dull-witted English, with their 
ridiculous illusions and sloppy emotions." Perhaps so. 
And yet I believe that behind that scornful smile there 
is a heart as sensitive as any ; but a heart which he is 
ashamed to reveal. He has, perhaps, come nearest to 
revealing it in that fine saying of his with which one 
may well close : 

" I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the whole 
community, and as long as I live it is my privilege to 
do for it whatsoever I can. I want to be thoroughly used 
up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. I 
rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no brief candle to 
me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold 
of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly 
as possible before handing it on to future generations." 


/faints To j ace. p. 53 



LORD MORLEY is the only " double first " of his time. 
He is perhaps the only double first since Burke. Other 
men have won distinction in more than one field. 
Canning wrote verse. Disraeli wrote novels. Macaulay 
was an orator as well as an historian. Gladstone dis- 
cussed Homer as vehemently as he discussed Home 
Rule. Lord Rosebery has trifled as piquantly with 
letters as he has with politics. Mr Balfour has spun 
cobwebs in covers as well as across the floor of the 
House. But of none of these can it be said that he was 
in the front rank alike of literature and of statesmanship. 
It may, with reserve, be said of Lord Morley. 

" That a man," wrote Macaulay, " before whom the 
two paths of politics and literature lie open, and who 
may hope for eminence in either, should choose politics 
and quit literature seems to me madness." I speak from 
memory, but I think he wrote that letter when he was 
smarting under his defeat at Edinburgh. The dictum 
must therefore be taken with reserve, for the grapes were 
sour. But we may be grateful for a decision that gave 
us a history which Macaulay himself compared with 
Thucydides' Peloponnesian War, and which posterity, if 
it has not ratified that verdict, has placed among the 
imperishable things of English literature. 

Lord Morley, with the "two paths" open before him, 


54 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

came to a contrary decision. In middle age, with a 
secure European reputation in letters, he rose from the 
editor's desk and took a commission in the field. " He 
gave up to a party what was meant for mankind," and 
left " the harvest of his teeming brain " largely un- 
garnered. When I see him I seem to see a row of 
phantom volumes books that will never be written 
beginning with that Life of Chatham, the promise of 
which, made nearly twenty years ago, is still unredeemed. 
And I wonder whether posterity will endorse his decision 
as it has endorsed Macaulay's. 

No man ever made a more dramatic entrance into 
office. The announcement one morning that Mr John 
Morley was the new Irish Secretary was the first clear 
indication of the most momentous departure in policy 
made in our time. It meant that Home Rule was the 
official policy of the Liberal Party. It startled the 
country then. If it could have foreseen all that it meant, 
it would have been startled still more, for it would have 
seen that it meant not merely a change of policy but a 
political revolution, the end of an epoch, twenty years of 
reaction culminating in the emergence of the spectre of 
Protection, and side by side with it the emergence into 
practical politics of social ideals which Lord Morley was 
wont to regard as the idle dreams of" impatient idealists." 

For Lord Morley belongs to the past. He looks out 
on politics with reverted eyes. He has, it is true, more 
than any other man the passion of the old philosophic 
Radicals for liberty and political equality. He sat at 
the feet of John Stuart Mill and wears the mantle of that 
great man not unworthily, though with a difference, 
for the disciple has less of the optimism of logic than 
the master. The spirit of the French Revolution still 

Lord Morley of Blackburn 55 

burns in him with a pure flame. Manchester, the 
Manchester of the mid-Victorian time, still speaks 
through him with unfaltering accents. He is the 
high priest of liberty the civil and religious liberty 
of the individual. He stands for a cause that is 
largely won; but, being won, still needs that eternal 
vigilance which is the price of liberty, to hold as well as 
to win. That is his task. He is the guardian of the 
victories of the past. He is not a pioneer. He points to 
no far horizons. He stands icily aloof from all the eager 
aspirations of the new time. He will have nothing to 
do with strange idols. The gospel of social justice, that, 
proclaimed by Ruskin and heard at the street corners, is 
penetrating into Parliament and changing the whole 
atmosphere of political thought, finds in him little 
response. He murmurs " Impatient idealists," and is 
still. For reward he has incurred that subtlest of all 
rebukes the praises of the Spectator. 

The world of politics is a world of action, of quick 
resolves, and firm and sudden movement. To hesitate 
is to be lost. Lord Morley has the hesitation of the man 
of thought. Hazlitt used to say that you could see the 
defeat of the Whigs written in the weak, fluctuating 
lower features of Charles Fox's face, just as you could 
see the victory of the Tories imaged in Pitt's " aspiring 
nose." So in the deep-set, contemplative eye and in- 
determinate chin of Lord Morley you see the man who 
inspires others to lofty purpose, rather than the man of 
action. In his study, alone with the past or the present, 
he hitches his wagon to a star and rides away into the 
pure serene. In a set speech, face to face with a great 
issue, he sounds a note of moral greatness, austere and 
pure, that is heard from no other lips to-day. But in 

56 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the presence of a situation calling for immediate and 
drastic action from himself, he is like Hamlet 

The time is out of joint. O cursed spite 
That ever I was born to set it right. 

It is this perplexity of the will, so characteristic of the 
philosopher in affairs, that is the secret of Lord Morley's 
admiration for Mr Chamberlain, for we all admire most 
that which we have not. He sees in him the quality of 
decisive actfon at its highest. Mr Chamberlain never 
doubts, never hesitates. He risks his whole fortune on 
the cast of a die. He does not pause to think : he acts. 
He has no yesterdays, no moral obligations. Do the 
principles he has professed stand in his path ? Then so 
much the worse for his principles. He discards them as 
lightly as the mariner disburdens his ship of the ballast 
in the hold. His days are not, like the poet's, " bound 
each to each with filial piety." He does not care what 
he has said : he only sees the instant strategy, and adopts 
it. Action! Action! And again Action ! I fit is neces- 
sary to burn his boats, he burns them on the instant. If 
it suits his purpose to change his coat, he changes it and 
is done with it. If his purpose can only be achieved by 
a war, then war let it be. No situation so obstinate but 

The Gordian knot of it he will unloose, 
Familiar as his garter ; 

if in no other way, then with the sword. He is a horse 
in blinkers. He sees neither to the right hand nor to 
the left, only to the goal ahead, and to that he flashes 
like an arrow to the mark. He knows that the thing 
the people love in a leader is swift decision and dramatic, 
fearless action. " Right or wrong, act ! " Lord Morley, 
lost in reflection, weighing all the delicately balanced 
factors, sees with wonder the whirlwind go by. 

Lord Morley of Blackburn 57 

Nor is the dominion of reflection over action the 
only bar to the leadership of Liberalism which once 
seemed within his scope. For his reflection upon life 
is touched with an abiding melancholy which differen- 
tiates him from his masters, who saw in the triumph of 
reason and logic the solution of all the problems of 
society. He cultivates no such confident optimism, 
but seems to detect in modern life the odour of decay, 
to see our civilisation not lit by the auroral light and 
bursting to perfect and enduring forms, but passing into 
the twilight whither the gods have vanished. It is of 
the late Lord Salisbury that he sometimes reminds one. 
Lord Salisbury, it was well said, was " like the leader of 
a lost cause, resolved to fight on, though well assured 
that nothing but defeat awaited him." His deep-rooted 
scepticism about all the tendencies of what he called 
" our miserable life " was qualified only by the disposi- 
tion to resist all change, not because the existing social 
order was good, but because it existed. It was the 
disposition to bear the ills we have rather than fly to 
others that we know not of. The ship was doomed and 
human effort an impertinence. Lord Morley's dejection 
is charged with a more active principle. It may be a 
losing fight in which we are engaged ; but human effort 
after perfection is none the less not an impertinence but 
the highest duty. The ship may be doomed, but we 
can still steer it by the stars. With Empedocles he 

says : 

Fear not ! life still 

Leaves human effort scope. 

But, since life teems with ill, 

Nurse no extravagant hope. 

Because thou must not dream, thou needst not then despair. 

A pessimistic philosophy is not inconsistent with the 

58 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

leadership of the Tory party, but to Liberalism it would 
be fatal ; and even the Stoicism of Arnold which more 
nearly represents the attitude of Lord Morley would 
serve only as a check to dissolution. For Liberalism 
must be compact of dreams and inspired by " extra- 
vagant hopes." 

Twenty-five years ago the future of British politics 
seemed bound up with three friends, the most powerful 
triumvirate of our time. Citizen Chamberlain provided 
the driving power and the popular appeal, Citizen Dilke 
the encyclopaedic knowledge of detail and affairs, John 
Morley the moral motive and the intellectual foundation. 
Together they could have moved mountains. But the 
combination, for various reasons, fell to pieces, and the 
great hope vanished in twenty years of dismal reaction. 
" The pity of it, lago, O the pity of it." It is one of the 
two great personal tragedies of modern politics. 

Of the three, Lord Morley alone remains in effective 
service, and upon him, the preacher of political liberty, 
the irony of events has placed the burden of despotic 
control over a vast subject people, dimly struggling 
towards freedom. It seems like a jest of fate a jest 
to show how far the stern moralist, the foe of the 
" reason of State," can resist the assaults of circum- 
stance and of entrenched officialdom. It is too soon 
yet to judge of the result. The deportation of Lajpat 
Rai suggested that Lord Morley had begun to dig 
his own grave ; but the victory of second thoughts still 
keeps him on the side of the angels. With courage he 
may yet make India his title to rank among states- 
men of the first class secure. And then his claim to a 
" double first " will be established. 

But whether success or failure awaits him, he cannot 

Lord Morley of Blackburn 59 

fail to stand out as one of the most memorable figures 
of our time. For he breathes into the atmosphere of 
public life the quality it most needs and most lacks 
the quality of a lofty and instructed moral fervour. It 
was that quality which made Victorian politics great. 
It is the absence of that quality which makes the politics 
of to-day so mean. There is no one left who can use 
the stops of the great organ save Lord Morley, and he 
in these days uses them only too rarely. Twenty years 
ago a speech by John Morley was an event. I recall 
one great utterance of his in Lancashire as the most 
memorable speech I have heard. Its peroration, so 
simple and poignant, lingers in the memory like a 
sonnet. He was speaking of Ireland, and he closed, as 
I remember it, thus: "Gentlemen, do to Ireland as you 
would be done by. If she is poor, remember it is you 
who have denied to her the fruits of her labour ; if she 
is ignorant, remember it is your laws that have closed 
to her the book of knowledge ; if she is excessive, as 
some of you may think, in her devotion to a Church 
which is not the Church of most of you, remember that 
Church was her only friend and comforter in the dark 
hour. Gentlemen, the dark hour is past. She has found 
other friends, other comforters. We will never desert 

You will catch that thrilling note in the oratory of 
Lord Morley at all times, for he touches politics with a 
certain spiritual emotion that makes it less a business 
or a game than a religion. He lifts it out of the street 
on to the high lands where the view is wide and the air 
pure and where the voices heard are the voices that do 
not bewilder or betray. He is the conscience of the 
political world the barometer of our corporate soul. 

60 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Tap him and you shall see whether we are set at " foul " 
or " fair." He has often been on the losing side : some- 
times perhaps on the wrong side : never on the side of 
wrong. He is 

True as a dial to the sun, 

Although it be not shined upon. 

There is about him a sense of the splendid austerity of 
truth cold, but exhilarating. It is not merely that he 
does not lie. There are some other politicians of whom 
that may be said. It is that he does not trifle with 
truth. It is sacred and inviolate. He would not admit 
with Erasmus, that "there are seasons when we must 
even conceal truth," still less with Fouche that "les 
paroles sont faites pour cacher nos pensees." His 
regard for truth is expressed in the motto to the essay 
" On Compromise." " It makes all the difference in the 
world whether we put truth in the first place or in the 
second." This inflexible veracity is the rarest and the 
most precious virtue in politics. It made him, if not, 
as Trevelyan says of Macaulay, " the worst popular 
candidate since Coriolanus," at least a severe test of a 
constituency's attachment. It is Lord Morley's contri- 
bution to the common stock. Truth and Justice these 
are the fixed stars by which he steers his barque, and 
even the Prayer Book places Religion and Piety after 
them, for indeed they are the true foundation of religion 
and piety. 

It is this severe loyalty to truth and justice that is the 
note of his writings this and a clarity and invigoration 
of style that give one the sense of a brisk walk on the 
moorlands. He is like the breath of winter " frosty, 
but kindly." The lucidity of his thought is matched by 
the chastity of his phrasing. He does not love what 

Lord Morley of Blackburn 61 

Holmes called "the Macau lay-flowers of literature." 
He does not burst 

Into glossy purples that outredden 
All voluptuous garden roses. 

But he is a well of English pure and undefiled a well 
whose waters have never served any growth save what 
was noble and worthy. 

He is not and could never be a popular politician. 
He is too eclectic, dwells too much apart for that. " I 
am not a gregarious person," he once said, and apart from 
his passion for music he has few popular tastes. But 
there is no man whose lightest word carries more weight 
with friend and foe than his does. The old gibe at him 
about spelling God with a small " g " is no longer heard, 
for he has made men realise that there may be as much 
true religion in the spirit in which one doubts as in the 
most exact formulas of belief, and he has never divorced 
the chivalrous austerity of his teaching from the conduct 
of his own life. It was characteristic of him that when 
he lived on the top of the Hog's Back and kept a horse 
and trap to meet him at the station, he always walked 
behind the animal when it was going uphill. When men 
disagree with him they do so with searchings of heart, 
for he is " clear of the oak and the pine-scrub, and out 
on the rocks and the snow," and perchance his vision is 
most true. He brings to the consideration of politics 
that historic sense which is the most rare and valuable 
element in contemporary criticism. He seems aloof 
from the dust and heat of the conflict, watching the 
unfolding of a new chapter in the eternal drama of 
things, and making his comments, not in the spirit of 
one of the actors, but with the cold detachment of the 

62 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Greek chorus. The alarums and excursions of politics, 
its subtleties and stratagems, do not appeal to him. He 
is not conscious of them, has not that celerity of mind 
that moves with ease amid the tortuous labyrinth. He 
is stiff and remote, irritated by the asperities of the game, 
scornful of its expediencies. His true place is with 
Burke on the back benches, applying the test of eternal 
principle to the momentary task, rather than with 
Walpole on the Treasury bench, seeking to make prin- 
ciples bend to the necessities of occasion. 

Photo by J. E. Purely 

To face p. 63 



IT is a perilous thing for contemporary criticism to 
express itself in ultimate terms. Jeffreys' " This will 
never do " stands as an historic reproof to cocksureness. 
Who knows anything of Buononcini to-day? Yet 
Byrom reflected contemporary opinion when he linked 
him with Handel in that jingle which has passed into 
the nursery : 

Strange that such difference should be 
'Twixt Tweedledum and Tweedledee. 

These things and history is strewn with similar ex- 
amples should put a salutary restraint alike upon our 
appreciations and our depreciations. We should re- 
member posterity, which does the winnowing itself and 
sets our judgment remorselessly aside. Who knows but 
that it may say that Mr Yeats wore the mantle of Blake 
and that Mr Hall Caine had a juster view of himself 
than you or I had ? When, therefore, we say that we 
have lost the breed of great men, let us do so with 
reserve, and when we point to John Singer Sargent as 
the one exception that proves the rule, let us add a rider 
to placate posterity. Let us agree with Mrs Meynell 
that he is the sole heir of Velasquez ; but let us qualify 
heir to his technical genius, but not heir to the nobility 
of his spirit. 

There was probably never a painter who held a more 


64 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

undisputed position in the art of his own day than Mr 
Sargent holds. Titian's supremacy was challenged by 
Veronese and Tintoret. Rubens and Rembrandt ran 
their course together, one living among princes and the 
other and greater dying in a garret. Velasquez was 
their contemporary, and in a sense the rival of Rubens. 
Reynolds and Gainsborough divided the crown. Turner, 
it is true, towered above his contemporaries in lonely 
splendour; but his greatness was never undisputed in 
his own day. Mr Sargent has the field to himself. The 
Royal Academy has become a sort of background to his 
dazzling achievements. We hurry through the quad- 
rangle with one thought in our minds. What has 
Sargent to show us ? A few years ago a second question 
was just emerging What has Furse to show us ? But 
that fine, chivalrous spirit vanished in the first pride of 
the morning, and the only possible challenge to Sargent 
vanished with him. It was the challenge of a nobler 
and simpler spirit. It was as though Handel had come 
to dispute the palm with Strauss, or gallant Gains- 
borough to bring back the old, happy English feeling 
into art. 

Mr Sargent does not appeal to us spiritually. He 
does not belong to us. He has the modern note of 
cosmopolitanism a thing almost as unattractive as the 
word that expresses it. He reflects a world that has 
lost the sense of nationality and does not know the 
meaning of home a world that lives in capitals, and 
flits from one palatial hotel to another. " D the 
fellow, how various he is ! " said Reynolds of Gains- 
borough; but in all his variety he spoke of England 
English lanes and English folk and English thought 
just as Rembrandt translated even the Gospel story into 

John Singer Sargent 65 

Dutch terms and Velasquez breathed the spirit of Spain 
into every stroke of his brush. Mr Sargent is various 
too, but it is a variousness that has no root either in 
himself or in us. He is a nomad. The son of American 
parents, born in Florence, trained in Paris, living in 
London, a citizen of the United States, speaking Italian, 
French, German, Spanish, almost as fluently as he speaks 
English, painting Jews for business and hot southern 
scenes for pleasure, he knows nothing of geographical or 
racial boundaries. Having all the earth as his artistic 
inheritance, he has no foot of ground that is peculiarly 
his own. 

Nor is his art anchored in any abiding human purpose. 
Millet and Watts were technically as unattached to 
any given soil as he is ; but they were each governed 
by a purpose greater than their art a purpose of which 
their art was only the instrument. They were prophets 
who chose, as it were, by accident, the medium of the 
brush instead of the pen. So with Velasquez and 
Rembrandt. Their appeal is primarily to the heart and 
after that to the aesthetic sense. Velasquez, it is true, 
tells us little of himself. He has the aloofness of 
Shakespeare. He reveals as the sun reveals, impartially, 
unemotionally, veraciously. He does not vitiate the 
statement of absolute truth by comment of his own. 
It is true that the essential nobility of his soul pervades 
all he does that in the grave, cool world he sees with 
so serene a vision even the clowns and the dwarfs are 
gentlemen. There is nothing mean, nothing for scorn. 
His water-carrier, painted when he was nineteen, has the 
dignity which is older than Courts, the dignity which 
belongs to nature and the sorrows of the earth. He 
sees the cunning that lurks behind the feline gaze of 


66 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Innocent X. and puts it down with unerring truth ; but 
he adds no note of his own. He does not criticise : he 
states. He had, as Mr Clausen has said, "the surest 
eye and the truest hand of any artist that ever lived." 
He had also the most truthful mind. 

There is truth also in Rembrandt ; but it is the truth 
not so much of objective vision as of subjective emotion. 
He is the painter of his own soul, the most intense, the 
most personal of dramatists. We admire Velasquez as 
we admire Shakespeare for his all-comprehending 
vision ; but we love Rembrandt as we love those who 
have taken us into the inner sanctuary of themselves, 
or as Desdemona loved Othello, for the perils he had 
passed. In short, the enduring hold of Velasquez and 
Rembrandt upon the world is less through their technical 
genius than through their human sympathies. In each 
case the artist was less than the man. 

Now Mr Sargent is the artist sans phrase the most 
accomplished artist of our time, one of the most accom- 
plished artists of all time. He is an artist like Rubens, 
rejoicing in his incomparable dexterity. He has a 
hand light as a cloud, a touch swift as the lightning. His 
pictures affect you " like a melody that's sweetly played 
in tune." He is the virtuoso, in love with his instrument, 
delighting in the effects he can extract from it, careless of 
everything except his astonishing art. Yet sometimes, 
as in the " Mountain of Moab " and the more intimate 
of the portraits, there are hints that Mr Sargent holds 
the poetic genius to be the true man. In general, how- 
ever, he takes his subject as a theme, not as Beethoven 
took it, to sound the deeps, but as Liszt took it, for 
rhetorical display. The analogy of music is inevitable 
in speaking of him, for his art has the mobility and 

John Singer Sargent 67 

rhythm of the orchestra. He fulfils the injunction of 
Sir Toby Belch, " Thou shouldst go to church in a 
galliard and come home in a coranto. Thy very walk 
should be a jig." Max Beerbohm's caricature expresses 
the essential spirit of his work. He is seen leaping at 
his canvas with a brush in either hand, while the fiddlers 
in the foreground scrape a tempestuous accompaniment. 
Nor is the analogy merely intellectual. Music is among 
the many accomplishments of this versatile man, as it 
was of that other Admirable Crichton, Lord Leighton. 
His recreation is the piano, and there are few more 
constant figures at the opera than his. 

His facility of execution is astonishing. He has this 
quality in common with Gainsborough and Hals that he 
seems to see the vision as a whole and to transmit it 
to the canvas with all its instancy and freshness and 
momentary delight. Take the incomparable portrait 
of " Lord Ribblesdale," or that audacious rendering of 
the " Misses Wertheimer." They are seen with the 
instancy of the camera and rendered with the pulse of 
life that the camera cannot give. It is as if the vision 
and the accomplishment were one action. Partly this 
is due to his enormous capacity for sustained labour. 
He can paint a portrait at a sitting and he can work on 
a canvas for six hours without loss of his wonderful 
vivacity and energy of mind. But this facility is rooted 
in the capacity for taking infinite pains. I am told that 
in the case of that dramatic " A Vele Gonfie," he went 
over most of the canvas twenty separate times, though 
the swift, untroubled brush strokes left no sense of 
labour, but rather of a careless improvisation. One 
remembers the historic reply of Whistler, " And do I 
understand, Mr Whistler, that you ask 200 for knocking 

68 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

off thisthis little thing?" "No, I ask 200 for the 
experience of a lifetime." There is the experience of a 
lifetime in those broad, confident sweeps of Sargent's 

Nor is his intellectual insight less remarkable than his 
technical dexterity. He seizes his subject in all its 
qualities, body, mind and spirit, and communicates the 
result pleasant or unpleasant: he is indifferent in one 
startling unity, so that it is as if you knew these people, 
the tones of their voice, the quality of their thought, 
their origin and their career. It would not, I think, be 
difficult to write a character sketch of the Wertheimers 
simply by studying Sargent's portraits. Take as an 
example of this faculty of reflecting the spirit in externals, 
the portrait of President Roosevelt, with its sense of 
power cunningly realised by such devices as the out- 
stretched right hand, muscular and exaggerated, that 
grasps the support as if it were the great globe itself that 
he held in his iron grip. There is a legend that a doctor 
puzzled by a certain case found the secret that he could 
not diagnose in the patient revealed in a portrait of the 
patient by Sargent. True or untrue, it is not difficult to 
believe, so searching is his vision. 

He is, more than any great portraitist on record, a 
satirist. Velasquez painted mean people and made 
them great. He painted great people and sometimes 
made them ignoble. But he never expressed his own 
contempt, for he had none. Mr Sargent's palette has 
usually a little acid in it. The note of scorn is 
subtle but indisputable. Mr Dooley expressed a 
truth with his delightful extravagance when he told 
how Mr Higbie of Chicago got his portrait painted 
by Sargent : 

John Singer Sargent 69 

Number 108 shows Sargent at his best. There is the same mar- 
vellous ticknick that th' great master displayed in his cillybrated 

take-off on Mrs in last year's gallery. Th' skill an' ease with 

which th' painter has made a monkey iv his victim are beyond 
praise. Sargent has torn th' sordid heart out iv th' wicked crather 
an' exposed it to the wurruld. Th' wicked, ugly little eyes, th' 
crooked nose, th' huge graspin' hands, tell th' story iv this mis- 
creant's character as completely as if they were written in so many 
wurruds, while th' artist, with wondherful malice, has painted onto 
th' face a smile iv sickenin' silf-complacency that is positively 
disgustin'. No artist iv our day has succeeded so well in showin' 
up th' maneness iv th' people he has mugged. We ondershtand 
that th' atrocious Higbie paid wan hundherd thousan' dollars f r this 
comic valentine. It is worth th' money to ivrybody but him. 

It is in his portraits of children, and occasionally in 
those of old age, that we find the note of human sym- 
pathy which is generally wanting. Here sometimes the 
heart as well as the intellect is engaged. There are few 
things more fresh and appealing than the Boit children 
or little Laura Lister. Greuze had no finer instinct for 
unsullied innocence. 

But it is as the artist that Sargent will live. The 
man will remain obscure behind the achievement that 
astonishes and delights the mind, but leaves the sym- 
pathies cold. His conception of the province of art is 
the antithesis of that of Burne-Jones, to whom a picture 
was a spiritual stimulus, a vision and an ideal, lit by a 
light that never was on sea or land, " the consecration 
and the poet's dream." It is not a view of life, nor a 
revelation of self. It has nothing to do with morals or 
emotions. It is art for art's sake, a thing self-contained 
and apart from the personal life of the artist. It remains 
to be seen in his case as in Whistler's how far that 
divorce is consistent with his inclusion by posterity 
among those whom it calls " great." Two things are 
certain. One is that if the technical mastery of the 

70 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

medium constitutes greatness, John S. Sargent is among 
the immortals. The other is that it is through his eyes 
that the future will see our time in its ornamental as- 
pects, just as to-day we see the eighteenth century 
through the eyes of Gainsborough and Reynolds. The 
one person the future will not see will be Mr Sargent 
himself. He will be for ever inscrutable not a man 
but a technique. 

Photo by V'oigt 

To face /. 71 



WHEN I think of the Kaiser I think of a bright May 
morning at Potsdam. It is the Spring Parade, and 
across from where we are gathered under the windows 
of the old palace the household troops are drawn up on 
the great parade ground, their helmets and banners and 
lances all astir in the jolly sunshine. Officers gallop 
hither and thither shouting their commands. Regiments 
form and re-form. Swords flash out and flash back again. 
A noble background of trees frames the gay picture 
with cool, green foliage. There is a sudden stillness. 
The closely serried ranks are rigid and moveless. The 
shouts of command are silenced. 

" The Kaiser." 

He comes slowly up the parade ground on his great 
white charger, helmet and eagle flashing in the sunlight, 
sitting his horse as if he lived in the saddle, his face 
turned to his men as he passes by. 

" Morgen, meine Kinder." His salutation rings out at 
intervals in the clear morning air. And back from 
the ranks in chorus comes the response : " Morgen, 

And as he rides on, master of a million men, the most 
powerful figure in Europe, reviewing his troops on the 
peaceful parade ground at Potsdam, one wonders whether 
the day will ever come when he will ride down those 

72 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

ranks on another errand, and when that cheerful response 
of the soldiers will have in it the ancient ring of doom 
" Te morituri salutamus." 

For answer, let us look at this challenging figure on 
the white charger. What is he ? What has he done ? 

The Kaiser is easily the foremost man in Europe. 
He is a King after Charles the First's own heart, "a 
King indeed," the last that is left, the residuary legatee 
of " the divine right." The divinity of the Tsar vanished 
in the tumult of Red Sunday. He is an autocrat 
struggling with an infuriated people. His power frankly 
rests on physical force. But the Kaiser is still able to 
associate Providence with his rule, still invokes the 
Almighty as the witness of his authority. Democracy, 
which has devoured all the rest, thunders at the base of 
his throne. It leaps higher and ever higher. One day 
there will come a wave that will submerge all, and 
" divine right " will have passed for ever from Kings to 
peoples. Then the Kaiser will rule by consent, like our 
own monarch, or 

Meanwhile he stands, facing the modern world, the 
symbol of mediaevalism in the heart of the Twentieth 
Century. The cause for which he fights could have no 
more worthy protagonist. He is every inch a King. 
Divest him of his office and he would still be one of the 
half-dozen most considerable men in his Empire. When 
the British editors visited Germany they were brought 
into intimate contact with all the leaders of action and 
thought in the country, and I believe it is true to say 
that the Kaiser left the sharpest and most vivid personal 
impression on the mind. 

It was the impression of enormous energy and mental 
alertness, of power, wayward and uncertain, but fused 

The Kaiser 73 

with a spark of genius, of a temperament of high nervous 
force, quickly responsive to every emotional appeal. 
His laugh is as careless as a boy's, but you feel that it is 
laughter that may turn to lightning at a word. 

The world distrusts the artistic temperament in affairs. 
It prefers the stolid man who thinks slowly and securely 
and acts with deliberation. It likes a man whose mental 
processes it can follow and understand, a man of the 
type of the late Duke of Devonshire, solid, substantial, 
and not the least bit clever. There is the root of the 
disquiet with which the Kaiser has been regarded for 
twenty years. He is a man of moods and impulses, an 
artist to his finger tips, astonishingly versatile, restless, 
and unnerving. He keeps his audience in a state of 
tense expectation. Any moment, it feels, a spark from 
this incandescent personality may drop into the powder 

He is full of dramatic surprises, of sudden and 
shattering entrances, of mysterious exits. He moves 
amidst alarums and excursions. And wherever he goes 
the limelight follows him. He journeys to Tangier, 
and Europe trembles with the thunder of his tread. 
He sails away into Arctic seas on a summer cruise, and 
his astonishing sermons to his men echo round the 
world. He comes back and makes our flesh creep with 
his pictured visions of the Yellow Peril. He writes an 
opera and is off to the Rhine to wind his horn. He 
addresses public meetings like a party politician, and 
with the authority of a prophet, and he denounces the 
Socialists like a Property Defence League orator. 

No man in history ever had a more god-like vision 
of himself than he has. His "cloud of dignity is held 
from falling " by the visible hand of the Almighty. " I 

74 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

regard my whole position," he tells the representatives 
of Brandenburg, " as given to me direct from Heaven 
and that I have been called by the Highest to do His 
work." Sometimes, indeed, even the Almighty is sub- 
ordinate. " Suprema lex regis voluntas" he writes in 
the Golden Book of Munich. He declares his omni- 
potence with a childish egoism that would be ludicrous 
if it were not so sincere. He takes nothing for granted 
does not, like Montaigne, let his chateaux speak for 
him. " My Church, of which I am summus eptscopus" he 
says, in lecturing the office-bearers on their duties. And 
again, " There is only one master in this country. That 
am I. Who opposes me I shall crush to pieces." It is 
like the vain prattle of an unschooled boy. 

His uncle dwells aloof from politics. The Kaiser 
comes down into the arena like a stump orator. " To 
me," he said in 1889, "every Social Democrat is synony- 
mous with enemy of the nation and of the Fatherland." 
This to the largest party in the land a party that 
commands three and a half million votes. And years 
have not taught him discretion. At Breslau not long 
ago, in addressing a deputation of working men, he said : 

For years you and your brothers in Germany have allowed your- 
selves to be kept by Socialist agitators under the delusion that if 
you do not belong to their party you will not be in a position to 
obtain a hearing for your legitimate interests. That is a downright 
lie. . . . With such men you cannot, you dare not, as men who 
love honour, have anything more to do : you cannot, you dare not 
let yourselves be guided by them any longer. 

Diplomacy and restraint, it will be seen, are not 
among his varied gifts in dealing with his people. 

Sometimes his vaulting ambition o'erleaps itself. It 
was his dearest wish to be not German Emperor, but 
Emperor of Germany, and crowned as such. He designed 

The Kaiser 75 

all the splendours of the ceremony, taking Charlemagne 
as his prototype ; but he found there were limits to the 
complaisance of the other German rulers and peoples, 
always intensely jealous of the dominance of Prussia and 
its King. They would not yield, and he remains to-day 
the uncrowned German Emperor, not the crowned 
Emperor of Germany. It is the fly in the Imperial 
ointment, the supreme disappointment of his career. 
Bismarck had cared only for the substance, and not for 
the shadow, when he consented to the limited title of the 
ruler of the new Empire. The subject was being dis- 
cussed in his presence at the time of the union. Some 
were for German Emperor, and some for Emperor of 
Germany. " Does anyone know the Latin word for 
sausage ? " asked Bismarck, using that homely imagery 
of his. " Farcimentum," said one. " Farcimen," said 
another. " Farcimentum or farcimen, it is all the same 
to me," said Bismarck. Sausage was sausage, whatever 
the name. He had welded Germany and was indifferent 
to titles. 

The Kaiser's view of his divine function extends to 
every phase of life. There is nothing in which he 
cannot instruct his people. He will snatch the baton 
from the incompetent conductor and show him how to 
lead the orchestra, the brush from the incompetent artist 
and show him how to paint. He can cook a dinner as 
skilfully as he can preach a sermon, draw a cartoon, 
write an opera, play the piano, or talk in five languages. 
And who will forget his amazing letter to Admiral 
Hollmann on the " higher criticism," in reply to Professor 
Delitzsch? Even trade does not escape him, and the 
famous pottery works which he has founded and carries 
on at Cardinen are a source of delighted labour to 

76 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

him. He has established a shop in Berlin to dispose 
of his wares, and he will take an order on the cuff 
of his shirt sleeve with the promptness of a commercial 

But all this is the recreation of his strenuous life. His 
serious task is to make Germany great. The ambition 
with which he set out was to create a Navy. He has done 
it. Frederick taught Germany to march : he has taught 
it to swim. " Navigare necesse est, vivere non est 
necesse." And if he regards his people as children, he 
is anxious that they should be efficient children. His 
views on education are entirely radical. " Our business 
is to educate young Germans, not young Greeks and 
Romans," he says. He approves of Homer, " that glorious 
man about whom I have always been enthusiastic," and 
of Cicero and Demosthenes, " whose speeches must have 
filled everyone with delight " ; but he has no sympathy 
with " grammatical and fanatical philologists," who waste 
their own time and the time of students over grammatical 
hair-splitting. " Away with this tomfoolery ; war to the 
knife against such teaching." 

He will have no rival near the throne. Does the 
mighty figure of Bismarck tower to the heavens and 
divide the crown ? Then Bismarck must go back to his 
fields and woodlands at Friedrichsruhe. He will brook 
no interference, tolerate no counsel. He is here to 
command, not to take advice. And yet the revelations 
of the Moltke- Harden trial have shown that the most 
omnipotent of Emperors is subject to the subtlest and 
most insidious of influences. 

Men talk of him in whispers in Germany, or they do 
not talk of him at all, for lese majesti is the cardinal sin, 
and walls have ears and streets have spies. The old 

The Kaiser 77 

Emperor was loved. There at the palace in Berlin they 
show you the window at which he used to sit in the 
mornings to see and be seen by the crowd an old, 
familiar figure, human and paternal, the father of his 
people. His grandson is aloof and remote. He dwells 
on Olympus and sends his thunderbolts hurtling over 
the astonished people. But though he does not ask for 
affection, he commands respect. His people admire his 
character. They are proud of his clean, vigorous life, 
of his devotion to his family, of his high sense of duty to 
the Fatherland. His life is a drama that never grows 
humdrum. It keeps them intellectually on the move. 
What will happen next with this amazing man ? 

No one can be more fascinating. His smile is irre- 
sistible. But if you are a bore, or if you are out of 
favour, his look runs you through like a sword. His 
questions are rapped out like musket shots. He does 
not listen to your answers, but plays with his dogs. He 
is not aware of you. 

His actions are swift and unexpected. The spur of 
the moment drives him. The telegram form is the 
symbol of his mental processes. He will become a 
guest at your board at an hour's notice, and be the most 
light-hearted boy at the table. When he entertained 
the editors at luncheon at the Orangerie at Sans Souci 
he said nothing about seeing them. The first intima- 
tion they had was the vision as they sat taking their 
coffee in the sunshine of the Kaiser riding up the steep 
winding paths from the palace below, and in two minutes 
he was among them, talking of the London docks and 
the Hamburg docks, of the Lake District and Lord 
Lonsdale, with pleasant frankness and easy, idiomatic 
English. Then with a bright word of welcome to his 

78 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

country and his house, and with three salutes a special 
mark of Imperial approval he rode away. 

Impulsive, imperious, dramatic, a militarist from his 
cradle, a statesman trained in " the indirect, crooked 
ways " of Bismarck, governed by one passion, the passion 
to make his land great and powerful, how can we cast 
his horoscope? Is he a menace or a safeguard? Let 
his past be his witness. For twenty years he has had 
the peace of Europe in his keeping, and for twenty 
years not a German soldier has fallen in war. " We are 
a military people," said a Minister to me in Berlin, " but 
we are not a warlike people. It is you who are warlike 
without being military." And so we may say of the 
Kaiser. He is a militarist, but he is not a warrior. 
" There will be no war without grave cause while the 
Kaiser is on the throne," said the politician I have 
quoted. " He is distrusted by the warlike party and 
remember that Germany has a considerable school of 
thinkers who believe in war philosophically as a natural 
purgative. They believe he is timid. But the truth is 
he wants peace because it is his own and the nation's 
chief intere? 4 ". Remember how he disappointed expecta- 
tion when he came to the throne. Germany was on the 
verge of war with France and Russia combined, and 
Europe saw the accession of the youthful Kaiser, so hot- 
headed and impulsive, with fearful expectation. Here 
was a new Napoleon, filled with dreams of glory, armed 
with the most gigantic military weapon in history. And 
his first official words were words of peace; his first act 
to visit the European courts, returning with the message, 
' I believe that, with the help of God, I have succeeded in 
ensuring the peace of the world for many years to come.' 
Set this and the record of his reign against those sudden 

The Kaiser 79 

ebullitions that seem so alarming, but are really only 
sound and fury, signifying nothing." 

He keeps his powder dry and his armour bright. 
But he stands for peace peace armed to the teeth, it is 
true ; peace with the mailed fist ; but peace nevertheless. 

And so, as one watches him riding down the ranks at 
Potsdam in the bright sunshine, hears the morning 
greeting rapped out in sharp staccato, and sees his 
salute to the Empress watching the parade from the 
windows of the old palace, one feels confidence dis- 
placing distrust, and discerns beneath all this rattle of 
drums and love of the drama of government an under- 
current of purpose, making, it is true, for the aggrandise- 
ment of Germany, but making also for the peace of the 
world. If he fails in his policy of peace, it will be 
because of the incurable air of falsity that is the besetting 
vice of German policy a policy which has been well 
described by the Frankfurter Zeitung as " incalculable, 
untrustworthy, and disturbing." It is a policy that 
always wears a mask, and a mask is a menace. Its words 
are smooth, but its acts are sinister and seem to have no 
relation to the words. It is a policy of cunning rather 
than of candour. It is incident to a government which 
is personal and secret, and Germany will not cease to be 
a disturbing element in world politics until the Kaiser 
has stepped down from his mediaeval throne and derives 
his power from a free and self-governing people. 


WHEN I first looked down upon the House of Commons 
there was one figure that above all others touched the 
imagination. He sat in the corner seat below the 
gangway, cold, isolated, silent, a man nursing his gloomy 
wrath and his unconquerable hope. The sad eyes looked 
out with a sleepless passion from under the level and 
lowering brows. He affected you like the thunder-cloud. 
Presently, you felt, the forked lightning would leap out 
of the gloom and strike the offending earth. He held 
you by the fascination of the unknown. He was a dark 
secret an idea incarnate. Near by him sat a young 
man of Napoleonic profile, the Roman nose boldly 
sculptured, the chin firm, rounded, protruding, the eye 
full and fearless. To-day that young man, young no 
longer, sits in the corner seat. The thunder cloud has 
vanished. Instead there is something of the warmth 
and generosity of frank comradeship with the House. 

For Parnell was the symbol of Ireland's despair and 
Ireland's hate; Mr Redmond is the symbol of Ireland's 
hope and Ireland's expansiveness. He is the leader in 
a happier day. The sky has cleared, and the end is in 
view. The old passions have passed away, and with the 
new and more humane and enlightened spirit has come 
the need of a new leadership. It required Parnell's 
fierce intensity to create the cause, and to carry it 

Photo by Beresforci 

To /ace p. 80 

John Redmond 81 

through the wilderness ; it needs another strategy to 
enter the promised land. Parnell was the incomparable 
guerilla chief, mysterious, secret, elusive, touching the 
imagination of his followers to a sort of frenzy of 
devotion ; Mr Redmond is the commander-in-chief of a 
regular army, pursuing his campaign in the open country 
according to the laws of Parliamentary strategy. He is 
not a dictator ; he is the head of a staff. 

Mr Redmond could not wear the rebel robe, for his 
genius is Parliamentary and constitutional. He is, 
indeed, one of the ablest Parliamentarians in the House. 
He has the spirit of Parliament in his blood. Four 
generations of his family have sat in the House, and he 
himself learned the rules as a clerk in the House, and 
later by breaking them in those thrilling days when the 
duty of every Irish member was to smash the machine 
of government. When he rises in his spacious, authori- 
tative way the House has that air of silence and respect 
which it only wears in the presence of a master. It is 
difficult to remember that this grave, senatorial figure, 
who comes into action with waving banners and meas- 
ured pomp, learned the art of war in the fierce school 
of faction and rebellion. His baptism was in blood. 
It was in 1880 that he made his first appearance in 
politics side by side with Parnell. He accompanied the 
chief on the platform at Enniscorthy, in his native 
Wexford, when Parnell was pelted with rotten eggs 
and brutally attacked. Parnell remained impassive 
through it all. " When an egg struck him on the head," 
said Mr Redmond in telling the story, " he never even 
raised his hand to brush it off, but calmly went on with 
his speech. Afterwards in the hotel he took his lunch 
as calmly while a tailor stitched his torn trousers." 

82 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Later on that memorable day young Redmond was 
attacked by a mob in the streets, knocked down, and 
cut on the face. Parnell met him, and remarked, " Why, 
you are bleeding ; what's the matter ? " Being told, he 
said with his cold smile, " Well, you have shed your 
blood for me at all events." 

Nor was his advent in the House less dramatic. He 
had intended to stand for the Wexford seat vacated by 
the death of his father, but Parnell selected Mr " Tim " 
Healy for the seat, and young Redmond loyally sup- 
ported the Chiefs nominee. In the following February 
of 1 88 1 he was returned for Ross. " They were stirring 
times," he told me, " and I got a telegram from Parnell 
to come at once. I crossed the Channel immediately, 
took my seat, and was suspended with all the rest of the 
party the same night for refusing to vote. But not 
before I had made my maiden speech. It was brief, but 
conclusive. The Speaker called on me to withdraw, and 
I said, c Mr. Speaker, I decline to withdraw.' That was 
all ; but I had broken the ice." He took his share in 
many such scenes. " We were most of us high-spirited 
young fellows, fresh from the University, and enjoyed 
that rough campaigning." 

To-day the House has no warmer admirer. " Putting 
aside its attitude to Ireland," he says, " it is the finest 
assembly in the world so manly and generous. It has 
tenderness, too. It is remorseless to the bore, but the 
touch of sincere humanity goes to its heart. It came to 
love Biggar with his quaint figure and his interminable 
speeches. And you remember how, when Bradlaugh 
was dying, it passed a resolution cancelling the wrong it 
had done him. That was a fine and generous act." 
With all his apparent composure he has some awe of 

John Redmond 83 

the House. " Familiarity does not breed contempt," he 
said to me once. " I find it harder and not easier to 
address it than I used. I am discovering that I have 
nerves. When I am going to make an important speech 
I am fidgety and unhappy." 

He is the orator of the House the last representative 
of a tradition that has passed. Other men rise to speak : 
he rises to deliver an oration. He advances, as it were, 
with his colours flying and his drums beating. It is no 
longer a skirmish, but a general engagement. All his 
rhetorical legions are brought into action with pomp and 
circumstance. His commanding presence, his strong 
utterance, his unhurried manner give a certain dignity 
and authority to his lightest word. He could make the 
multiplication table sound as impressive as a funeral 
oration, and the alphabet would fall from his lips with 
the solemn cadence of Homeric verse. To hear him say 
" Mr Speaker, sir," is alone a liberal education in the 
art of saying nothing with immense seriousness. It is 
the oratory of the grand manner, like that of Mr Henry 
Chaplin ; but there is " stuff" in his speech, while Mr 
Chaplin has only stuffing. With all his air of delibera- 
tion, he relies largely upon the moment. On one of the 
rare occasions when he wrote out his speech he " missed 
the points," picked up his notes, found them in a hope- 
less confusion, tried again and failed, had a further and 
unavailing search among his papers, now more hopelessly 
jumbled than ever, put them away, and sailed off before 
the wind of his portly eloquence. It was all done with 
perfect gravity. He is a man who can even break down 
with dignity and repose. 

In many respects he is the least representative of 
Irishmen. He has none of the gay, irresponsible wit of 

84 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

his brother " Willie," the idol of the House, who has a 
tongue as swift as a Dublin jarvey's, and whose inter- 
jections explode like joyous crackers on the floor of the 
Chamber. Mr " Willie " refuses to be solemn. It is 
enough for him to be merry and mischievous. He holds 
that his brother has dignity enough for both. In the 
hot days after the " split," when he replied with his 
delightful impulsiveness to some exasperating attacks 
by Mr " Tim " Healy, his brother remonstrated with him 
on the ground that his words were not " gentlemanly." 
" One gentleman in the family is enough, John," he said 
with his delightful gaiety, and no doubt went off twirling 
his shillelagh. 

Nor has he any of that Celtic mystery and passion 
which give the philippics of Mr "Tim" Healy their 
touch of magic. Still less has he his spirit of impish 
mischief. Again, he has not the detachment of John 
Dillon, a patriot of the Brutus strain, simple, chivalrous, 
self-forgetful, a man who lives for a cause with a certain 
stainless purity that ennobles the House and enriches 
our public life. Mr Dillon is the poetry of patriotism ; 
Mr Redmond is its politics. He is the plain, competent 
business man who has succeeded to the command of 
the concern and does his work with thoroughness and 
dispatch, but without passionate intensity or that 
tyrannic impulse that possessed Parnell. When Parnell 
was dethroned he died. If Mr Redmond were de- 
throned you feel that he would simply have more 
leisure for sport. No one has ever doubted his patriot- 
ism ; but he has none of the bitterness of fanaticism. 
He is above all a man of the world and of affairs. 
The air of the country blows about him, and he loves 
the wholesome entertainment of life. You are not 

John Redmond 85 

surprised to learn that he was a good cricketer and that 
he still follows the game with interest, that he is 
happiest tramping the mountains with a dog and a gun, 
that he can manoeuvre a salmon as skilfully as a Parlia- 
mentary motion, and sit a horse as firmly as he sits in 
the saddle of the chief. He is alone a sufficient answer 
to the foolish view that the Irish have not the gift of 
self-government. He is the ablest general in the House. 
He has brought his frail barque through the wildest 
rapids that any statesman ever navigated. Through all 
the bitter war that followed the fall of Parnell he re- 
mained loyal to his old chief loyal in the face of 
English morality and Irish clericalism. He marched 
out of the battle with his little band of nine, and 
wandered with them through the wilderness for nearly 
ten years. At last he brought all the scattered flock 
together, and to-day even Tiger Tim consents to bear 
his mild yoke. 

He has the great virtue of never making enemies, for 
there is no poison in his shafts. He has about him a 
spacious and sunlit atmosphere in which the rank growth 
of personal bitterness cannot live. He can be generous 
even to his political foes. " I like Balfour," he will tell 
you. ' He bears no malice. When the round is over 
he shakes hands. After I came out of prison in 1888 he 
met me in the lobby. ' I'm glad to see you back,' he 
said. ' I hope you are no worse for it.' And he said it 
in a way that made you feel he meant it. Now that is 

not the way with ." He will not even admit that 

Mr Balfour was wholly bad as a Chief Secretary. " The 

worst Chief Secretary by far was ," and he mentions 

a name that fills one with mild surprise. " No man 
of sensitive feeling," he says, "can fill that office long. 

86 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Birrell is too finely strung for it. It needs a man like 
Walter Long. ' I hunt three days a week and draw a 
fat cheque at the end of it,' he told an audience in 
Dublin. He is one of the good type of Tories. You 
know he is half an Irishman, and hunts in my country." 
He has, you see, a good word for everyone. 

If the old ferocities of the Irish issue have vanished 
from the House, it is largely due to him as well as 
to the softening influence of time. He has no anti- 
British sentiment and will never talk of "cutting the 
painter." "Our stake in the Empire is too large for 
us to be detached from it," he said to me. " We 
Irish have peopled the waste places of Greater Britain. 
Our roots are Imperial as well as national." He rejoices 
in the new spirit that has come over Ireland. The old 
religious strife is dying. " When I first went to Belfast, 
I went carrying my life in my hand. In those days you 
dared not be seen in the streets and had nowhere to 
speak save a remote schoolroom, and even there you 
were not safe. The last time I went to Belfast I spoke 
in the Ulster Hall, the largest building in the place, and 
a third of the audience were Protestants. At the close 
one after another of them came up and shook hands and 
spoke cordially about my speech. The world is growing 
better and saner." 

Unlike Parnell, he is a Catholic, but in his urbane way 
he has fought an heroic fight with clericalism. When 
the Parnell split came he elected to stand by his political 
chief and to defy the lightnings of the Church. It 
needed courage. He has sat in his pew and heard him- 
self denounced by name from the altar as the anti-Christ. 
He has seen the congregation rise in a body and walk 
out in revolt against the priest. His ultimate triumph 

John Redmond 87 

was won without sacrifice, and it involved the end of 
the political domination of the priesthood. The secular 
power of the priest was split on the rock of Parnellism. 

There have been moments of weakness. He made a 
mistake in tactics when he responded to Cardinal Logue's 
appeal and brought his party over to support the Educa- 
tion Bill in the autumn Session of 1902. And his action 
in moving the rejection of the Irish Councils Bill at the 
Convention did not square with his reception of the Bill 
in the House. His judgment is sometimes overruled by 
expediency. He is not the autocrat of his party, as 
Parnell was: he rules by consent. 

When Home Rule comes, it is to be hoped that it will 
find him still in the saddle. It will be well for Ireland 
and well for England that his suave spirit should give 
the note to the new relationship of the two countries. 
For the fundamental fact about Mr Redmond is that he 
stands for peace and goodwill. He is by nature the 
least combative of men. He has been fighting all his 
days, but he has always fought as though he loved his 
foes, and when he passes from St Stephen's at West- 
minster to St Stephen's Green in Dublin, he will not 
leave a single bitter memory behind him. 


IF one were asked to say whose word carried the most 
weight in Parliament to-day, there could, I think, be only 
one answer. Whether in office or out of office, whether 
to friend or foe, Sir Edward Grey is intrinsically the 
weightiest speaker of his time. When he sits down in 
the House of Commons, it is as though discussion has 
ceased. Other men speak from the bar; he speaks 
from the bench. He does not argue ; he delivers a 
judgment There is no appeal, and no one asks for 
an appeal. 

I remember a curious instance of this note of final 
authority. It was during the time when Mr Balfour was 
holding his Ministry together by his arts of evasion and 
agility. The attack was hot and furious ; the temper of 
the House high and passionate. But it seemed that 
nothing could tear away the veil of falsity behind which 
Mr Balfour concealed his evolutions. Late at night Sir 
Edward Grey rose. It was as though a visitor from 
another planet had invaded the House. He spoke 
briefly, quietly, without heat, and without emotion. But 
it was as if the House had listened to a rebuke that was 
almost a sentence. Mr Balfour was silenced. There 
seemed nothing to do but to go home. 

If we seek for the source of this authority, we are struck, 
first, by the relative poverty of his equipment. There 


Photo fry ff. II'. Burnett 



Sir Edward Grey 89 

are many brilliant men in the House of Commons : Sir 
Edward Grey is not one of them. The stuff of his 
speech is plain to the point of homeliness. His thought 
is ordinary, almost conventional. He never coins a 
phrase that sticks, nor wears a rhetorical flower in his 
button-hole. He has none of the arts of popular appeal. 
I remember him addressing a great provincial audience 
after the Fashoda crisis. It was an audience that 
had assembled to have its political partisanship stimu- 
lated. It sat in silence for an hour while Sir Edward 
told the story of Fashoda about which the audience 
obviously did not care a rap and praised Mr Wynd- 
ham and the Conservatives for their conduct during 
the crisis. When he sat down the temperature of the 
meeting had fallen below freezing point, and only the 
fulminations of a local orator, whose poverty of aspirates 
was balanced by the richness of his enthusiasm, saved 
the occasion from utter failure. He is remarkable 
neither for learning nor ambition. His knowledge is 
limited, and his insularity a tradition. He never leaves 
the shores of England, and is reputed to have little 
French. He contrasts almost startlingly to take an 
example with Sir Charles Dilke, who is a citizen of 
the world, has been everywhere, knows everything, is 
like a well-kept office where you will find the minutest 
detail pigeon-holed for immediate reference. Nor has 
he the industry that corrects so many deficiencies in 
others. His love of leisure is as notorious as his love 
of tennis and of fishing. It is significant that the only 
book he has written is on the art of fly-fishing. He has 
no passion for politics. He seems a casual figure in 
the field of affairs, a spectator who is a little bored by 
its feverish activities and idle talk. You feel that he 

90 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

may leave it at any moment, and be discovered at home 
making trout flies. 

It is this aloofness from life that is the key to his 
unique position. He comes into affairs, as it were, from 
the outside, detached, unimpassioned, bringing his own 
atmosphere with him. He has the large serenity of one 
who is at home in his own mind, draws his water from 
his own well, has that 

. . . inward light 
That makes the path before him always bright. 

The passions of men, the cries of the market place, the 
frenzy of the conflict do not touch him. He dwells 
outside them in a certain grave isolation. It is not that 
he is cold. His philosophy is not that of the Stoic, 
steeled to endurance of an implacable fate. It is rather 
the philosophy of the mind that " feeds on a wise pas- 
siveness," and finds in that food those large reserves of 
power that give his words their peculiar weight and his 
actions their stamp of authority. 

There is a certain spaciousness and simplicity in his 
character that communicate a sense of abiding purpose 
to politics. He sees the landscape, as it were, from an 
elevation, and takes in its features in broad masses. His 
view of the forest is not obscured by the trees. There 
are richer minds in politics, more eager minds, more 
fertile minds ; but there is no mind so secure and self- 
contained, so indifferent to external impulse, so firmly 
rooted in itself. His influence is not unlike that exer- 
cised by the late Duke of Devonshire. It is the 
influence of a character of absolute purity of motive 
and of unyielding independence of thought. It is the 
influence of one to whom the world can offer no bribe. 
There is nothing in its gift that he wants neither 

Sir Edward Grey 91 

power, nor praise, nor wealth. " His mind to him a 
kingdom is," and in that kingdom he finds full content. 
In that kingdom, too, it is nature and not men which 
is his constant companion. He is wholly indifferent to 
society, and leaves the social and festive functions of his 
office to others, while he escapes to the quiet of that 
country cottage where, before his tragic bereavement, 
he lived with his wife the simple life he loves and where 
now he is happy in the companionship of natural things. 
His passion for nature is, indeed, the keynote of his 
character. A colleague of his in the Cabinet told me 
an incident illustrating this rich and wholesome en- 
thusiasm. The Session of a certain year had been an 
unconscionable time a-dying, and Sir Edward, yearning 
for the country, had been held an unwilling captive to 
the dusty ways of Westminster. At last he escaped, 
took the train to Northumberland, and reached his home 
at Falloden in the late evening. And, full of the joy of 
his recovered liberty, he ascended to the roof of his house 
and spent the night amid 

The silence that is in the starry sky, 
The peace that is among the lonely hills, 

until the dawn came up over the North Sea that beats 
hard by against the rock-bound coast. It follows almost 
naturally that his one literary enthusiasm is for him who 
took men out " into the light of things," where Nature is 
the teacher. " I spent last night with Grey," said a 
friend of his to me, "and we talked of nothing but 
Wordsworth." It is significant, too, that at a dinner of 
a literary club on one occasion, the three authors he 
referred to as those " light-hearted and happy " writers 
who give us recreation when we are tired and have lost 
resource in ourselves were Izaak Walton, Gilbert White, 

92 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

and Thomas Love Peacock. Show me a man's books 
and I will tell you his character. 

He has the unhasting mind of the countryside. He 
never flashes out in any sudden flame of enthusiasm. 
He is slow to move ; but he is slower still to speak. 
The ball has reached the mark before you hear the 
report. He is deaf alike to the prayers of friends and 
the menaces of foes. He goes his own way, takes his 
own time, declines to make any veiled promises in order 
to secure suspense of judgment. " They say. What 
say they? Let them say." When the thing is done 
he will speak till then let the heathen furiously rage 
together. This reticence, so trying to the eager mind, 
invests him with a certain cloud of power that speech 
would dissipate. He is a hidden and implacable pur- 
pose. Sometimes that purpose, when disclosed, has the 
shock of dramatic surprise. For two years the friends 
of Macedonia had thundered at his gate in vain. He 
gave them no encouragement, was cold and apparently 
indifferent. Then one night, following a fierce on- 
slaught by Mr Masterman, which he waved aside with- 
out anger, almost with gentleness, he announced a policy 
which suddenly changed the whole situation, and 
revealed him taking a brave and high line with the 
Powers in the cause of a desolated people. 

Less defensible was the muzzle he imposed on the 
House in the midst of the Denshawi shame. He repre- 
sented the situation as too critical for discussion ; 
but the truth, subsequently revealed, leaves one at a 
loss to understand that demand for silence from one 
whose tendency is to understate the facts. For it is 
clear that there was never any real peril. But, indeed, 
the whole of that dark story, with Sir Edward's defence 

Sir Edward Grey 93 

of the officials, followed by the sudden resignation of 
Lord Cromer and the belated release of the wronged 
villagers who had escaped the scaffold, is obscure and 

Not less typical of his attitude of reserve towards 
Parliament was his silence as to the Russian agreement, 
which was never allowed to be discussed, and which, 
with apparently studied scorn, was published a few days 
after Parliament had risen. Sir Edward Grey's view of 
foreign affairs, indeed, is that it is a close bureaucratic 
preserve into which he will allow no impertinent tres- 
passers. It is outside the field of democracy. There is 
no right of way through his woods, and he is the keeper 
with a gun. This is a just view so far as the conduct of 
delicate negotiations is concerned, but it is assailable 
when applied to the spirit of national policy. Even 
Prince Billow in bureaucratic Germany seeks the en- 
dorsement of Parliament, to which he explains his 
policy at least with seeming frankness. But in demo- 
cratic England the Foreign Minister is silent as the 
Sphinx, looking out over the desert of Parliament into 
infinity : 

Others abide our question : thou art free, 
We ask and ask : thou smilest and art still. 

Sir Edward is, indeed, the least democratic, as he is 
the least demonstrative of men. He belongs more than 
any man to-day to the great Whig tradition the Whig 
tradition, touched by the strong personality of Bishop 
Creighton, who was his tutor when that great man held 
a parsonage in Northumberland, and by the passionless 
spirit of the Balliol of Jowett. He distrusts the irre- 
sponsible waywardness of public opinion, with its quick 
emotions and passionate transitions. " The public ! 

94 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the public ! how many fools does it take to make the 
public ? " he seems to say with a statesman of an earlier 
time. And yet, perhaps, that is unjust, for there is no 
trace of bitterness in him, and his patrician view is free 
from the taint of contempt or the airs of the superior 
person. It sits on him naturally. He is to the manner 
born. He takes his place at the high table without 
pushing and without challenge. He is there by a 
sort of royal authority, unconscious of itself, but imaged 
in the bold sculpture of the face, the steady eye, and 
the governing nose. 

What of the future ? It depends partly on whether 
the centre of gravity in Liberalism shifts to the right or 
the left. If to the right, then the highest place in the 
State is within his scope, for though he is superficially 
little in sympathy with the eager spirit of the new 
Liberalism, he is not essentially at variance with it. 
The Whig temperament is in him a restraint upon the 
tongue rather than a restraint of thought. His views 
are often more advanced than his habit of stating them. 
But his love of the rod of the fisherman is greater than 
his love of the rod of Empire, and, like Danton, he 
would hold that " it is better to keep a flock of sheep 
upon the hillside than meddle with the government of 
men." One day, it may be, he will shake the dust of 
Westminster from his feet for ever, and then we shall 
know where to look for him. For he himself, I re- 
member, pictured that happy time with delighted antici- 
pation when replying on one occasion to a toast 
proposed by Mr Churchill : " It is a time of unlimited 
leisure that we shall spend with old friends in a library. 
There is a garden outside the library, and, of course, a 
suitable river not flowing too fast, nor, at the same 

Sir Edward Grey 95 

time, flowing too slow, which is a worse fault. That 
will be the happiest time of all. I, in those days, shall 
have no thought of politics except to read the report of 
the brilliant speeches which Mr Churchill will still be 
making in the House of Commons. Just think, those of 
you who are engaged in political occupations, what our 
libraries are now compared with what they will be when 
we get old the quantities of clippings, the drawers full 
of opponents' speeches kept in the hope of being able 
to produce a quotation at an inconvenient moment ; 
pamphlets and magazines by the hundredweight ; blue 
books and Hansards by the ton. I think of the 
splendid time I shall have making a bonfire of them all. 
How I will stir the fire, and how I will mulch my 
roses with the ashes ! " 

It is a pleasant picture. We may fittingly leave him 
mulching his roses or going out with his rod to that 
delightful river which flows neither too fast nor too 
slow. A copy of the Compleat Angler peeps from 
one pocket, and White's Selborne from another, and 
around him is the great book of nature that never 
wearies. Perhaps in that serene solitude one will come 
to him as Maximian came to Diocletian, who had 
resigned the Imperial purple, asking him to resume the 
reins of government. " He rejected the temptation," 
says Gibbon, "with a smile of pity, calmly observing 
that if he could show Maxirnian the cabbages which he 
had planted with his own hand at Salona he should no 
longer be urged to relinquish the enjoyment of happiness 
for the pursuit of power." I think I see Sir Edward 
showing his visitor his basket of trout and pointing to 
his rosebuds and the whispering woods as his answer to 
the appeal to return to the dusty strife of politics. 


LORD CURZON would have been a great man if he 
could occasionally have forgotten Lord Curzon. Health 
is always unconscious of itself. It is not until sickness 
that one is aware of the body. It is not until a nation 
has lost its freedom that it becomes conscious of itself 
and the spirit of nationalism burns like a fever in the 
blood. And the mind in perfect health is equally self- 
forgetful. Lord Curzon has never enjoyed that health. 
He has dwelt in a house of mirrors. Wherever he has 
turned he has met the dazzling vision of himself. 
Oxford was but a setting for one magical figure, Parlia- 
ment the stage for one inimitable actor, India the 
background for one radiant form in purple and gold. 
When poor Sir Naylor Leyland opposed him at South- 
port he turned and rent him as if he were a dog 
desecrating the sanctuary. When simple St John 
Brodrick, forgetful of the Balliol days when he had 
been honoured by the notice of the Honourable George 
Nathaniel Curzon, dared to veto his action in India 
because he feared Lord Kitchener even more than he 
feared Lord Curzon, he forbade him his presence. 
Where he went Mr Brodrick must not be. He would 
not have him in the same social hemisphere. He must 
get a hemisphere of his own. "God may forgive him," 
he is reported to have said ; "but I never will." 

Photo by W. <& D. Downey 

To face /. 96 


Lord Curzon 97 

It is one of Mr Chesterton's jolly maxims that a man 
should be able to laugh at himself, poke fun at himself, 
enjoy his own absurdity. It is an excellent test of 
mental health. Man is a tragi-comedian. He should 
see himself the quaint " forked radish " that he is, 
fantastic as well as wonderful. He should see his mind 
ready to do battle and die, if need be, for an idea, but 
equally ready to get into a passion because his egg is 
boiled too hard. He should, in a word, see himself not 
as a hero, but as a man of strange virtues and stranger 
follies, a figure to move him to alternate admiration 
and laughter. Lord Curzon has never laughed at 
himself. He has only admired. And from this immense 
seriousness, this absence of the faculty of wholesome 
self-ridicule and self-criticism, issue those mistakes with 
which his career is strewn, a type of which was his 
appeal to the sympathy of the world for having asked 
for and been refused a seat in the House of Lords. It 
seemed to him an insult to majesty. It seemed to the 
world a joke. It kept the satire of his Oxford days true 
to the mature man. It made credible all those strange 
stories of the pomp and circumstance of the Durbar 
of the Viceroy who would not touch swords with the 
chiefs, but left that menial function to the Duke of 
Connaught, and who turned the wild extravagance of 
that colossal show into a triumph in which he filled the 
role of Imperial Caesar. 

This grandiose vision of himself as Caesar was at the 
root of most of his mistakes in India. It was responsible, 
for example, for that adventure into Tibet an adventure 
without motive and without consequence, except the 
motive of personal reclame, and the consequence of 
shooting down a defenceless people like a flock of 


98 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

sheep, and burdening the Indian peasant, with his 
income of >2 a year, with new taxation. A high price 
to pay for the glory of being the first Viceroy to pene- 
trate to Lhassa. It was responsible for that costly folly 
of the Durbar. The people were dying of famine and 
of plague, and he gave them a circus, for which they 
had to pay out of their misery. It was responsible, 
too, for that stupendous white elephant, the Victoria 
memorial, which is sinking into the mud of the Maidan 
at Calcutta. The people asked for a memorial that 
would regenerate their industry a great scheme of 
technical and scientific education. Mr J. N. Tata, the 
wealthy Parsee, offered to start such a scheme with a 
quarter of a million of money. It was refused, and the 
people were offered an idle show-place in Lord Curzon's 
grandiloquent phrase, "a snow-white fabric" arising 
from the green expanse of the Calcutta Maidan, " the 
Taj of the Twentieth Century." He might have given 
India an instructed people : he promised it a pretty 

It was this view of the mild Hindoo as a child, to 
be amused and paternally governed, that was the vice 
of his method. He was aloof on Olympus. India had 
no access to him. Hindoos like Mr Gokhale, one of the 
ablest men and noblest characters with whom I have 
ever come in contact, and Mr Surendra Nath Banerjee, 
were ignored. They were natives children like the 
rest. Had he listened to them, that fatal partition of 
Bengal would never have been carried out, or would 
have been carried out differently. It was carried out 
ruthlessly, and no more momentous act was ever 
accomplished. It has set India alight with a flame 
that will never die down, " When I went out to India 

Lord Curzon 99 

in 1902," said a well-known Englishman to me, "there 
was no national movement. To-day all the land fer- 
ments with new national ideals. We owe that to Lord 
Curzon's provocative policy. He has created the New 
India." It is good that there should be a new India : 
it is not good that it should come to birth with the 
bitter sense of British injustice. 

The exaggerated sense of one's own place in the 
scheme of things involves depreciation of the place of 
others. Lord Curzon always under-rated the Indian 
intelligence, and always forgot that the native was a 
man with the sensibilities of a man. " If you prick him, 
will he not bleed; if you tickle him, will he not laugh?" 
He often laughed at his lordship, sometimes good- 
naturedly, as when at the time of the Durbar Lord 
Curzon organised a show with the admirable idea of 
promoting native industries. He denounced those who 
got their furniture and their artistic ideals from " Totten- 
ham Court Road." The retort was crushing. It was 
pointed out that his residence at the Durbar had been 
furnished by Maple's ! Sometimes the laughter had a 
ring of anger. Everyone remembers that blazing in- 
discretion at the Convocation of Calcutta University, 
when, addressing the Bengali students and the cream of 
intellectual India, he spoke of truth as a Western virtue, 
and more than hinted that the Orientals, like the Cretans, 
were liars, and that they were given to flattery, and 
other heinous sins. A shudder went through society. 
How would India take this insult? The situation was 
saved by a Hindoo with a characteristically tenacious 
memory. He went home, took down Problems of the 
Far East, by George N. Curzon, and a day or two later 
there appeared in the Amritsa Bazar Patrika, side by 

ioo Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

side with the offending passages in the speech, the 
following extract from Lord Curzon's book : 

Before proceeding to the Royal audience I enjoyed an interview 
with the President of the Korean Foreign Office. . . . Having been 
particularly warned not to admit to him that I was only thirty-three 
years old, an age to which no respect attaches in Korea, when he 
put to me the straight question (always the first in an Oriental 
dialogue), " How old are you ? " I unhesitatingly responded, " Forty." 
" Dear me," he said, " you look very young for that. How do you 
account for it ? " " By the fact," I replied, " that I have been 
travelling for a month in the superb climate of his Majesty's 
dominions." Finally he said to me, " I presume you are a near 
relative of her Majesty the Queen of England ? " " No," I replied, 
" I am not" But observing the look of disgust that passed over his 
countenance I was fain to add, " I am, however, as yet an unmarried 
man," with which unscrupulous suggestion I completely regained 
the old gentleman's favour. 

India was dissolved in laughter. It almost forgave 
the insult for the sake of the jest. 

Coupled with his exalted view of himself, Lord 
Curzon has an energy, industry, and capacity that are 
probably unrivalled. They showed themselves at 
Oxford, where he missed his First in " Greats " The 
indignity cut him to the quick. It must be wiped out 
by heroic means. He must win the Lowthian Prize. 
He went away to Egypt with his books of reference. 
He worked incessantly ; came back to London, spent a 
fortnight at the British Museum putting the finishing 
touches on his work, and at midnight on the last day for 
receiving the essays dashed up in a cab to the schools, 
awoke the porter, handed in his essay, and won the 
prize. With a similar fury of industry he, later, won the 
Arnold Prize. This power of work he has always shown. 
In India he was the wonder of the Service. His hand 
was everywhere. Nothing was delegated. No subject 
was too microscopic to escape him. He instructed the 

Lord Curzon 101 

Government proof readers in the correct use of the 
comma and called the Bengal Government to book for 
three errors in the inscription placed on Macaulay's 
Calcutta house. I remember one incident of this 
abnormal industry and personal sensitiveness. An 
article criticising him had appeared in a London paper. 
It came back to the editor neatly pasted on foolscap 
sheets of paper. In the margin he had written for 
private information an elaborate and detailed reply to 
every sentence. 

He was not loved by the officials. That is not 
necessarily to his discredit. No Viceroy who did his 
duty to India would be loved by the officials. He had 
gone out with the gospel of " Efficiency," and he was 
imperious in his reforms, and in the insistence on his 
supremacy. The famous Note on Departmentalism is 
still a classic in Indian official circles. It is read o' 
nights over the pipe and the glass, and such passages as 
" Departmentalism is not a moral delinquency. It is an 
intellectual hiatus " still make the rafters ring. 

There was never a Viceroyalty so full of the drama of 
action. Every day had its new sensation. In every 
scene the limelight was upon him. India to-day, for 
good and evil, is largely what he made it. Many of his 
reforms were excellent, many of his practical schemes 
admirable. He held Commissions and inquiries, and, 
what is more, acted on them. His Irrigation scheme 
was a great and worthy effort to combat famine. He 
made a brave stand for the right of the Indian to equal 
justice. His action in regard to the gth Lancers was 
high and courageous. The evidence pointed to one of 
them having been guilty of the murder of a native cook 
a common enough occurrence. They refused to dis- 

IO2 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

close the murderer. He degraded the regiment. When 
it marched past at the Durbar all official India applauded 
loudly. It was meant as a rebuke to Lord Curzon, 
sitting there silent upon his horse. I hope he saw that 
it was not a rebuke, but the proudest compliment of his 
career. Nor do I think he was wrong in the final 
rupture with Lord Kitchener. At any rate, he stood for 
a great principle the civil control of the Army. 

No estimate of Lord Curzon would be complete which 
omitted the fact that he has fought his battle with the 
handicap of physical weakness. He has lived his life, 
as it were, on broken wing. To that we may trace the 
defects of temperament and outlook. Nor can one 
forget the tragedy of his domestic life the loss of the 
brilliant partner of his career in circumstances full of 

A brilliant man, full of energy, full of ambition, full of 
capacity, still young though more than " forty " 
burning to be in the heart of the fight, he finds himself 
with no path open, no role to play, his career closed ere 
it has well begun. The brilliant Indian episode left him 
stranded on the political shore. For a time he cast 
longing eyes upon the House where he had once been 
the best-graced actor and where his eager temperament 
could alone find scope for play. Then he turned sadly 
to the House of Lords, and the shades of that decorous 
prison-house closed on his high-soaring spirit. 

PJwto l>y E. H. Mills 



IT was a quarter to twelve, midnight. Mr Balfour 
was once more at bay, defending his tottering Ministry 
from collapse. The immediate point was a certain 
closure resolution. What were the terms ? It was vital 
to the Opposition that they should know, and know 
to-night. Mr Balfour fenced and feinted. He would 
not give the conditions. He would hand them to the 
Clerk on the adjournment. Once in his hands they were 
unpublished and undiscussable until to-morrow. The 
moment of adjournment had almost come, and Mr 
Balfour had gained his point. He threw down the 
document on the table, and the Opposition sank back 
defeated. In the moment of discomfiture a figure moved 
towards the table the figure of a youth, fair, slight, 
with head thrust forward, eyes protuberant, eyebrows 
lacking, the whole air that of boyish audacity. He 
seized the document, turned back to his seat, and, before 
the House had quite realised what had happened, was 
disclosing, on the usual nightly motion that this 
House do now adjourn, the whole scheme in the form 
of a rain of questions addressed to Mr Balfour. 
The secret was out. The Speaker rose, the House 
adjourned, and the members poured out into the lobbies, 
excitedly discussing Winston's audacity and what it 

had disclosed. 


IO4 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

It was the Churchill touch. It carried the mind back 
to those brief years when another Churchill was the 
storm centre of the House, bearding the mighty 
Gladstone with calculated insolence, ridiculing the 
" Marshall and Snelgroves " of his own party, and leaping 
on to his seat in the hour of victory, waving his hat and 
shouting with schoolboy glee. What a meteor it was ! 
How brilliant its path, how dramatic its climax, how 
tragic its eclipse ! And now his son leaps forward into 
the arena, with the same daring, the same aplomb, the 
same incomparable insolence. Again the cry is " A 
Churchill! A Churchill!" and to that cry the street 
responds as to no other. For it is the call to high 
adventure and careless gallantry. It suggests the clatter 
of hoofs in the moonlight, the clash of swords on the 
turnpike road. It is the breath of romance stirring the 
prosaic air of politics. 

" When Nature has fashioned a genius," says Emerson, 
"she breaks the mould." It is true of genius, in spite 
of the possible exception of the Pitts ; it is not true 
of talent. A Caesar does not follow a Caesar, nor a 
Shakespeare a Shakespeare, nor a Cromwell a Cromwell. 
But to-day we have remarkable evidence of the trans- 
mission of high talent. Mr Harcourt, Mr Churchill, and 
Lord Hugh Cecil are not inferior to the fathers that 
begat them. 

Mr Churchill, indeed, is superior to his father. For 
to Lord Randolph's flair and courage and instinct for 
the game he adds a knowledge and industry his father 
did not possess. He works with the same fury that he 
plays, attacks a subject with the intrepidity with which 
he attacks an opponent in the House. "What are all 
those books on Socialism ? " asked a friend of mine who 

Winston Churchill 105 

was calling on Mr Churchill just before his departure on 
a tour to East Africa. "They are going to be my 
reading on the voyage," he replied. " I'm going to see 
what the Socialist case really is." And so with his 
speeches. " The mistake you young men make," said 
Mr Chamberlain to some rising politicians, " is that you 
don't take trouble with your speeches." That is not Mr 
Churchill's way. I have been told by one who was in 
Scotland with him when he was campaigning that he 
never appeared at his hostess's table until tea time. 
All day he might be heard booming away in his bed- 
room, rehearsing his facts and his flourishes to the 
accompaniment of resounding knocks on the furniture. 
It is not that he is without readiness. No one is more 
intrepid in debate. But he is too wise to rely on that 
faculty in a set speech. He has the genius which 
consists of taking infinite pains. The speech with 
which he leapt into Parliamentary fame was that in 
which, while still the youngest recruit of Toryism, he 
shattered Mr Brodrick's army scheme. It electrified the 
House by its grasp of the problems of national defence 
and its spacious movement in the higher realm of moral 
purpose. " I wrote that speech out six times with my 
own hand," he told me. 

The courage which that speech displayed sustained 
him throughout the transition from Toryism to Liberal- 
ism. There is no parallel in our time to the intensity of 
the feeling which that transition aroused. His rising 
filled the Government ranks with visible frenzy a 
frenzy which culminated one day in the whole party, 
two hundred and fifty strong, getting up as one man and 
marching out of the House as he rose to speak. It was 
the highest tribute ever paid to a Parliamentary orator. 

io6 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

It was as though the enemy fled at his appearance from 
a literal battlefield. And, indeed, the whole spirit of 
his politics is military. It is impossible to think of him 
except in the terms of actual warfare. The smell of 
powder is about his path, and wherever he appears one 
seems to hear the crack of musketry and to feel the hot 
breath of battle. To his impetuous swiftness he joins 
the gift of calculating strategy. His eye takes in the 
whole field, and his skirmishes are not mere exploits of 
reckless adventure, but are governed by the purpose of 
the main battle. He would not, with Rupert, have 
pursued the flying wing he had broken : he would, like 
Cromwell, have turned and smashed in the enemy's 
centre from the rear. 

It follows from this that his oratory has the qualities 
of the writer as well as of the rhetorician. There is 
form and substance as well as flame and spirit. Like 
the hero of his novel Savrola, in which, at twenty- 
three, he foreshadowed his career, he burnt the midnight 
oil over his brilliant impromptus. He will tell you that 
his father not only learned his speeches, but studied his 
gestures and his pauses, would fumble in his pockets for 
a note he did not want. Mr Churchill is not indifferent 
to the same arts to heighten his effect. Not that his 
oratory needs extrinsic aids. It is rich and varied in 
its essential qualities. The architecture is broad and 
massive. The colouring is vivid, but not gaudy. He 
does not worry a humour to weariness. He strikes the 
note of gravity and authority with a confidence that one 
can hardly reconcile with the youthful face. And his 
satire can be quite in the leisured eighteenth-century 
style, as when, attacking Mr Balfour's Cabinet on the 
Fiscal issue, he said : 

Winston Churchill 107 

They are a class of right honourable gentlemen all good men, 
all honest men who are ready to make great sacrifices for their 
opinions, but they have no opinions. They are ready to die for 
the truth, if they only knew what truth was. They are weary of 
office ; they wish anything would relieve them of its cares ; but their 
patriotic duty compels them to remain, although they have no 
opinions to offer, holding their opinions undecided and unflinching, 
like George II. at the Battle of Dettingen, sans peur et sans avis. 

He is extraordinarily youthful even for his years. 
He has the curiosity and animation of a child a child 
in fairyland, a child consumed with the thirst for life. 
He must know all, taste all, devour all. He is drunk 
with the wonder and the fascination of living. A talk 
with him is as exhilarating as a gallop across country, 
so full is it of adventure, and of the high spirits and 
eagerness of youth. No matter what the subject, 
soldiering or science, religion or literature, he plunges 
into it with the joy of a boy taking a " header " in the 
sea. And to the insatiable curiosity and the enthusiasm 
of the child he joins the frankness of the child. He has 
no reserves and no shams. He takes you, as it were, by 
the arm on the instant, and makes you free of all the 
domain of his mind. You are welcome to anything that 
he has, and may pry into any corner you like. He has 
that scorn of concealment that belongs to a caste which 
never doubts itself. And he is as frank with himself as with 
you. " Yes," he said, " I have read James' Immortality. 
I have read it three times. It impressed me deeply. But 
finally I came to the conclusion that I was lacking in the 
religious sense, and put it away." He has, coupled with 
this sense of deficiency, a real reverence for the spiritual 
man. His admiration for Lord Hugh Cecil is sincere and 
unaffected. He speaks of him as one who dwells within 
the Palace of the King, while he stands without the gate. 

io8 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

His school was the barrack-room ; his university the 
battle-field. He has served in two regiments of the line, 
fought with the Spaniards in Cuba, and held a commis- 
sion in the South African Light Horse. He knows life 
in four continents, and has smelt powder in three. He 
has seen more wars than any man of his years ; written 
more books than any soldier living. He has been a war 
correspondent ; he has been taken prisoner ; he has 
escaped from prison. And he showed the same address 
in war as in politics. General Smuts told me that when 
he held up the armoured train on which Mr Churchill 
was captured he was struck by the energy and capacity 
of a fair-haired youth who led the defence. When they 
surrendered this youth modestly claimed special privileges 
in telegraphing to his friends on the ground that he was 
a war correspondent. The General laughed. " You 
have done all the damage that's been done," he said. 
" You fight too well to be treated as a civilian." " And 
now," added the General, in telling me the story, " I 
am going to the Colonial Office to see if I can get a 
favour out of that fair-haired youth in memory of our 
meeting on the veldt." 

When, hot from campaigning on Indian frontiers and 
Egyptian sands, he galloped up to Westminster with 
his breezy " stand and deliver," he found Mr Balfour 
lacking in enthusiasm. Mr Balfour knew his father 
indeed, followed his father in the jolly Hounslow Heath 
days of the early eighties. But while it was capital 
fun to go tiger-hunting with a Churchill, it was another 
affair to have a Churchill worrying you in office. He 
remembered his uncle's famous mot. When, after the 
memorable resignation, he was asked if he did not want 
Lord Randolph back, Lord Salisbury replied : " When 

Winston Churchill 109 

you have got rid of a boil on the neck, you don't want 
it back again." Mr Balfour determined that he would 
not have a boil on the neck. 

His coolness did Mr Churchill a service. It hastened 
his inevitable development. Like his father, he has 
the instinct of the democrat. His intellectual fearless- 
ness carries him resistlessly along the path of con- 
stitutional development. The fundamental vice of 
Conservatism is that it distrusts the people. Its 
fundamental policy is to hoodwink the people, bribe 
them, drug them, use them as tools. Lord Randolph 
saw the folly of this. He saw that no party could be 
vital without the sanction of an instructed people, and 
that the modern State was healthy in proportion to the 
development of a healthy democratic opinion. He tried 
to hitch the democracy to the Tory chariot. It was a 
gallant dream, and he was broken on the wheel in the 
attempt. Mr Churchill is happier in his fate. He was 
fired out of the Tory tabernacle before he had eaten 
out his heart in a vain service. 

What of his future ? At thirty-four he stands before 
the country the most interesting figure in politics, his 
life a crowded drama of action, his courage high, his 
vision unclouded, his boats burned. " I love Churchill, 
and trust him," said one of his colleagues to me. " He 
has the passion of democracy more than any man I 
know. But don't forget that the aristocrat is still 
there latent and submerged, but there nevertheless. 
The occasion may come when the two Churchills will 
come into sharp conflict, and I should not like to 
prophesy the result." That danger seems remote. 
More than any man of his time, he approaches an 
issue without mental reserves and obscure motives and 

no Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

restraints. You see all the processes of his mind. It 
may be said of him, as Lord Russell said of the British 
Constitution, that he is like a hive of bees working under 
a glass cover. He leaves you in no doubt. He does not 
" hum and ha." He is not paralysed by the fear of con- 
sequences, nor afraid to contemplate great changes. He 
knows that to deal in millions is as simple as to deal 
in pence, and that timidity is the unpardonable sin of 

Has he staying power ? Can one who has devoured 
life with such feverish haste retain his zest to the end 
of the feast? How will forty find him? that fatal 
forty when the youth of roselight and romance has 
faded into the light of common day and the horizon 
of life has shrunk incalculably, and when the flagging 
spirit no longer answers to the spur of external things, 
but must find its motive and energy from within, or find 
them not at all. 

That is the question that gives us pause. For, with 
all his rare qualities, Mr Churchill is the type of "the 
gentleman of fortune." He is out for adventure. He 
follows politics as he would follow the hounds. He 
has no animus against the fox, but he wants to be in 
" at the kill." It is recorded that when, a fiery-headed 
boy at Harrow, he was asked what profession he 
thought of taking up, he replied, " The Army, of course, 
so long as there's any fighting to be had. When that's 
over, I shall have a shot at politics." He is still the 
Harrow boy, having his " shot at politics " not so 
much concerned about who the enemy may be or 
about the merits of the quarrel as about being in the 
thick of the fight and having a good time. With the 
facility of the Churchill mind he feels the pulse of 

Winston Churchill 1 1 1 

Liberalism with astonishing sureness, and interprets it 
with extraordinary ability. But the sense of high 
purpose is not yet apparent through the fierce joy of 
battle that possesses him. The passion for humanity, 
the stern resolve to see justice done though the heavens 
fall and he be buried in the ruins, the surrender of 
himself to the cause these things have yet to come. 
His eye is less on the fixed stars than on the wayward 
meteors of the night And when the exhilaration of 
youth is gone, and the gallop of high spirits has run 
its course, it may be that this deficiency of abiding 
and high compelling purpose will be a heavy handicap. 
Then it will be seen how far courage and intellectual 
address, a mind acutely responsive to noble impulses, 
and a quick and apprehensive political instinct will 
carry him in the leadership of men. 


THERE was probably never a more striking contrast 
in personality than when Dr Davidson succeeded Dr 
Temple at Canterbury. " They remind me of silk and 
sackcloth," said a witty prelate of them after a certain 
interview. " Davidson really rubbed me the wrong way, 
yet I hardly knew it, for he had a velvet hat-pad ; but 
Temple took a scrubbing-brush, and fairly scoured away 
my notions." 

Around this collision of temperaments so diverse 
there has gathered a wealth of legend. It is related 
that when Dr Temple was presented to Queen Victoria 
on his appointment to the See of London, it fell to 
the lot of Dr Davidson, then Bishop of Winchester, 
to introduce him. " Your Majesty," said the courtly 
Bishop of Winchester, " will remember that Dr Temple 
has had the honour of being presented to your Majesty 
before." " No," said the Queen, " I don't remember hav- 
ing met Dr Temple before." "Surely your Majesty," 
insisted Dr Davidson, gently, " remembers his lord- 
ship being presented on his appointment as Bishop 
of Exeter." " No," repeated the Queen ; " I don't 
remember." "But," began the Bishop again, "your 

Majesty will recall " Dr Temple could stand no 

more. " What is the use," he broke in, in his harsh 
West-Country accent, "of wanting her Majesty to say 

Photo by l-.lliott &> I-'iy 

To face p. 112 


The Primate 113 

she remembers when she says she forgets ? " And not 
less delightful is that other story which tells how the 
two prelates were seated at dinner on either side of 
her Majesty. "And you were appointed to Exeter in 
1867?" said the Queen to Temple. "How wonderful 
that your Majesty's mind should retain such details ! " 
interposed Dr Davidson. " Not wonderful at all," 
growled Temple. " I've just told her." 

These legends, whatever their basis in fact, illustrate 
the attitude of the two men to life. Temple was no 
courtier. He carried directness of speech to the point 
of brutality. When an obsequious clergyman related 
to him the sad loss of his aunt ; adding, " Your lordship 
will agree that I know what bereavement is," he replied 
tartly, " I can't say ; I didn't know your aunt." And I 
am told by one who was present that at some Church 
ceremony in the West of London he had grown weary 
of the excessive amiability of the vicar, and at the 
subsequent dinner, when the vicar sat opposite, he turned 
the talk to the subject of smiling people. " I hate people 
who are always smiling," he said to his neighbour in his 
most biting tones. " They smile in the morning, and 
they smile in the afternoon, and they smile at night. 
They're always smiling. Look at the vicar there he's 
always smiling." The vicar became suddenly grave. 

Dr Davidson probably never said a wounding word in 
his life. It might even be said without offence that he, 
too, is " always smiling." He is clothed in the armour 
of imperturbable blandness. He is never betrayed into 
wrathful speech, for the smooth current of his thought 
is unruffled by fierce emotion. He has ever ready the 
soft answer that turns away wrath. He is an impalpable 
foe. You cannot come to hard grips with him, for he 


114 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

smothers your attack with silken words and leaves you 
angry and helpless, while he retires from the lists, cool 
and urbane as from a garden party. 

Indeed, he is one of those to whom the world is a 
garden party where it is one's duty to be suavely polite, 
and where the unpardonable sin is over-emphasis. He 
moves in and out among the throng with smooth words for 
all, and frowns for none. The sun shines aloft, a gentle 
breeze stirs the foliage, and on the lawn there is the 
motion of colour and the hum of well-mannered speech. 
It is a world of delicate deportment. 

The polite man lives in perpetual victory. When 
Renan, pushed aside in the struggle to enter an omnibus, 
plaintively remarked that "there is no room in the 
modern democratic world for the polite man," he was 
wrong. The assertive man may have the material 
victory; but the spiritual victory is always with the man 
of unruffled good-breeding. He is never defeated, for 
though he may lose the prize he does not lose him- 
self. " I never give the wall to a scoundrel," said a man 
meeting Chesterfield one day in the street. " I always 
do," said Chesterfield, stepping with a bow into the road. 
The one kept his boots clean, the other went away in a 
cloud of victory. 

Dr Davidson is the type of the polite man. He is 
the courtier-statesman of the Church. He is governed 
by policy, and not by emotion or mood. His person- 
ality never peeps out through that panoply of considered 
conduct. His immediate predecessors, Temple and 
Benson, were both men like as we are, the one brusque 
and practical, breaking in on the proprieties with crash- 
ing vehemence, the other swayed by emotions, introspec- 
tive, and a little sentimental. Dr Davidson is an em- 

The Primate 115 

bodied office. You never catch him without the lawn 
sleeves. You never surprise him out of the clerical and 
courtly accent. 

His career is characteristic of those qualities which 
have made the Scotch the most successful people in the 
modern world. They are the masters of themselves. 
They are never victimised by circumstance. They do 
not flame out into sudden passion. They keep cool. 
And it is the cool who inherit the earth. It is often said 
that Dr Davidson has been " lucky." And certainly no 
man ever achieved more with fewer of the externals of 
brilliancy. His path has lain among palaces ; his com- 
panionship has been the companionship of princes. 
Chaplain in succession to two archbishops, married to 
the daughter of one of them, the favourite preacher and 
domestic chaplain of Queen Victoria, he was raised to 
the episcopal bench at forty as Bishop of Rochester, 
refused the Primacy before he was fifty, and accepted it 
at fifty-three the youngest Primate on record. For 
those who believe in luck here indeed is a career that 
justifies their theory a career all springing from that 
friendship with young Crauford Tait, who, like him, was 
one of " Vaughan's lambs " at Oxford, and whom, when 
he died, he succeeded as chaplain to the Archbishop. 
But, after all, what is luck but the art of taking occasion 
by the hand, which in turn is the result of character? 
We would all have the Scotsman's trick of success if we 
could. We miss success, not because we have souls 
above it, but because we lack the self-possession and 
command of circumstance. 

He is essentially a diplomatist who has strayed, as it 
were, into the Church. I never see him without being 
reminded of Velasquez's portrait of Innocent X. His 

ii6 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

kindly face has not the sinister note of that prelate ; but 
it has the same calculating quality, the same sense of 
a mind delicately balancing the scales. He is the 
" smoother " of politics. He blurs the sharp lines of 
controversy. He sees both sides of a question so clearly 
that he takes neither. Black is not so very black, and 
white is really only whitish. He differs from you in 
sorrow, never in anger, and he leaves the door ajar for 
reconciliation. He wears no labels. He eludes the 
Ritualist as he eludes the extreme Evangelical, and 
embraces both in a universal benediction. He has no 
antipathies, and would be equally happy with Dr 
Clifford or Lord Halifax, happier still with both, who 
would leave his presence arm-in-arm, convinced that 
they had really been of one mind all the time. No 
party can claim him. He might adapt the candidate's 
creed to himself: 

Ez fer my politics, I glory 
In havin' nothin' of the sort. 
I ain't a Whig, I ain't a Tory, 
I'm jest an Archbish-op, in short. 

But he loves to be on the side of authority and of 
Government, and prefers " Yea, yea " to " Nay, nay." 
He is not unrelated to the Vicar of Bray. 

This temperament of compromise and conciliation 
makes for peace and pleasantness, but it fails in the 
hour of crisis. It does not rise to the great argument. 
A significant phrase is often more revealing than the 
most subtle portrait. Titian's " Charles V." is among the 
great achievements of art, but it tells us little of the 
Emperor compared with what he told of himself the day 
when he stood beside the tomb of Luther at Wittenberg, 
and those about him suggested that the body of the 

The Primate 117 

enemy that had triumphed should be disinterred and 
burned at the stake in the market-place. " I war not 
with the dead," said Charles, and by that chivalrous 
word we know him. So with Luther himself. He lives, 
one of the most vital figures in history, by virtue of 
those shattering phrases that leapt from his lips like 
thunderclaps that reverberate for ever. " The Pope's little 
finger is stronger than all Germany," said the Cardinal 
legate to him. " Do you expect your princes to take 
up arms to defend you you, a wretched worm like you ? 
I tell you, No! and where will you be then where 
will you be then ? " " Then, as now, in the hands of 
Almighty God," cried Luther. Dr Davidson will be 
remembered by a phrase of ingenious compromise. He 
will be remembered as the man who, sitting in the 
highest seat of spiritual and moral authority in the land, 
said that Chinese labour was " a regrettable necessity." 
The moment came for a great word and he uttered a 
discreet evasion. The moment came to say " This is 
wrong," and he said " This is moderately right" 

His speech wears the Court costume as naturally as 
Temple's wore the russet coat of the Devon moors. He 
thinks in crowns and sceptres. When speaking on the 
fundamental unity of Christians, it was characteristic 
that he chose as the two occasions which revealed that 
unity the death of the Queen and the consecration of 
the King. And even the stories of his wit carry us to 
the same atmosphere. At a meeting of the Kent Chess 
Association he remarked that though he was not a 
brilliant player, he could claim to represent all the 
pieces, except the pawn. He had had a great deal to 
do with kings and queens, had lived in two castles, and 
was both a knight and a bishop. " Except the pawn." 

ii8 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

It is a notable exception, for the pawn stands for plain 
humanity, the rest for the trappings of circumstance. 

His royal progress has not been witnessed without 
criticism by his fellow Churchmen. His amazingly 
early elevation to Rochester was keenly discussed, and 
Archdeacon Lefroy is credited with the remark that : 
" If any man was born with a silver spoon in his mouth, 
it was Randall Davidson ; but I like his pluck, although 
he thinks Archdeacons small fry, scarcely worth notic- 
ing." And when he went from Rochester to Winchester 
on the ground of health, it was a London daily journal, 
friendly to the Church, and friendly, indeed, to him 
personally, which said it preferred the candour of 
Sydney Smith when he said, " I must honestly say that 
I have been happier all my life for every additional 
penny I received." The thrust was tempting, but a 
little unjust, for the Primate's health has always been 
liable to collapse since, as a lad, a charge from a gun 
entered the base of the spine. Every autumn he is 
threatened with peritonitis, and for months at a time 
lives on nothing but milk food. And it is fair to 
remember that he refused the Primacy once, and 
accepted it with hesitation on the second occasion of 
its offer. 

He has not touched the imagination of the country as 
Temple touched it, by the sense of natural force and 
shattering veracity, or as Benson touched it, by a certain 
spiritual sadness ; but he has filled his great office with 
a high sense of its responsibility. If he has seemed 
timid when the occasion called for courage, it is because 
he conceives that office as a moderating instrument in 
the national life, a check upon violent oscillations, an 
aid to ordered development. If one misses in him the 

The Primate 119 

note of the passionate assertion of right, it is not 
because his sympathy with right is lacking, but because 
it is restrained by the caution of the diplomatist, anxious 
to wield influence without associating his office with the 
cause of party. And it is undeniable that this caution 
is at times a source of power, as well as at others a 
source of bitter regret. It has, for example, given his 
intervention in the licensing controversy singular weight 
the weight which attaches to the man who takes a 
side with profound reluctance. And though carrying 
caution himself to the utmost extreme, he is not in- 
appreciative of courage in others. " It is a great thing," 
he told a friend of mine, speaking of the Licensing Bill, 
"to have a Government which dares to bring in a 
measure which it knows will lose it votes." He would 
be a greater personal force if he had the same indiffer- 
ence to consequences : but his office might have suffered. 
For until the Church is free, its head can never sound 
the clear trumpet-note of spiritual challenge, but must 
utter himself in the muffled accents of compromise with 
the world. 


"WHAT I really think ," said Mr Harcourt. 

" What you really think," interrupted the other, 
laughing, " is known only to Mr Lewis Harcourt and his 

Mr Harcourt smiled his inscrutable smile and pro- 
ceeded. The thrust glanced off the impenetrable corslet. 
But it expressed what one feels about this dominating, 
masterful figure, that sits so tight in the saddle, wears 
ever an unruffled front, turns aside the smashing blow 
with a jest, seems never hurried, never worried, pursues 
his purpose with such stillness that he is forgotten until 
the mine explodes and the match that fired it is seen in 
his hand. 

The lightnings play about the path of Mr Winston 
Churchill : Mr Harcourt advances in the shadow, un- 
obtrusively, unnoted, except by the few. Watch him 
casually, and he seems but a spectator of the game, 
amused and interested, but never caught in its central 
swirl a man after Mr George Russell's own heart, 
carrying with him the atmosphere of the eighteenth 
century, full of worldly, ironic wisdom, rich in stories 
of men and events, too fond of pulling the mechanism 
of the watch to pieces ever to become a wheel in its 

That is the superficial view of Mr Harcourt. Behind 

Photo by R. Haines 

Tojace p. 1 20 


Lewis Harcourt 121 

this easy, imperturbable exterior you find one of the 
most subtle, most far-seeing, most unswerving influences 
in politics. " It was the intrigues of young Harcourt 
that upset my apple-cart," Lord Rosebery is reported 
to have once said. The saying, if authentic, was not 
quite true. The man who upset Lord Rosebery 's apple- 
cart was Lord Rosebery. But those who know most 
of the intricate story of those troubled years when Sir 
Henry Campbell-Bannerman was holding aloft the old 
flag, surrounded by open enemies and cold friends, know 
how much of the ultimate triumph was due to the 
astuteness and passionless loyalty of Mr Harcourt. I 
would rather have him at my back in a row than any 
man in politics. 

Mr Harcourt bides his time. He has the rare gift of 
immeasurable patience. Jacob toiled for Laban fourteen 
years ; but Mr Harcourt toiled for his father twenty. 
He gave up not only his youth but his maturity to that 
filial service. He took on himself the humblest secre- 
tarial tasks. He learned shorthand and typewriting to 
facilitate his father's work. He sought no place for 
himself. He drudged seventeen hours a day over his 
father's budgets ; he grubbed among Blue-books and 
dusty documents. 

He was over forty before he sought a seat in Parlia- 
ment. Even when he entered the House he was 
content to remain silent to wait. He was, to the 
world, just " Lulu," Sir William's son, an amiable 
young man devoted to his father, the shadow of a 
great name. When he was given a place in the 
Ministry he had not uttered a word in Parliament, 
and there was a certain justice in the allusion to him 
as "an interesting experiment." The phrase tickled 

122 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

him. I have a letter from him signed " The Interesting 

He delivered his first Parliamentary speech as a 
Minister of the Crown, and he came into his kingdom at 
a stride. His long apprenticeship was over, and a new 
force of first-rate possibilities was added to the drama of 
politics. He emerged in a day from the obscurity of 
twenty years into the front rank of the conflict, equipped 
with every Parliamentary resource, knowing all the inner 
workings of the machine, familiar from his childhood 
with the great figures of the past, Gladstone, Disraeli, 
Salisbury, astute, serene, unfathomable, with the suavity 
of conscious power, and most dangerous when he was 
most suave. The glove was velvet, but the hand within 
was iron. 

To-day Mr Harcourt stands out as one of the three 
men in the Liberal Party to whom all things seem 
possible. Political life never furnished a more startling 
contrast in temperament and outlook than two of those 
three furnish the one eager, restless, inquiring, passion- 
ate, modern as the morning's news-sheet, drinking life 
in great feverish draughts, as if he feared that every 
moment would snatch the goblet from his lips for ever, 
a mountain torrent in spate ; the other calm and secure, 
cool and calculating, living as if he had all eternity to 
work in, as if he had the key to every problem and had 
tasted all that was in the cup of life. The orbit of the 
one incalculable : the orbit of the other known to the 
fraction of a second. 

For Mr Harcourt has his roots in the past. He 
treads in the established tradition of British statesman- 
ship. To him the world is still divisible into Whigs 
and Tories, the old party lines still plainly mark the 

Lewis Harcourt 123 

path before him. He will never lead a Social Revolu- 
tion. He will never blaze out into any " raging, tearing 
propaganda." He will never desert the tabernacle, and 
if ever the Old Guard comes into action on the even- 
ing of some Waterloo, it will be Mr Harcourt who will 
lead the van. 

In a word, he is for the Party first and last, for 
Liberalism as he understands it and as his father under- 
stood it, for Liberalism as the instrument of sober, 
considered progress, upon familiar lines ; yielding here a 
little and there a little to the fierce clamour of the new 
time with its new, strange voices ; but keeping ever to 
the great trunk road, of which Walpole was the engineer 
in the eighteenth century and Gladstone in the nineteenth. 
How far a mind so rooted in the past, so governed by a 
conception of society organically unchanging, can control 
the lightnings that flash in the political sky of the 
twentieth century and bring them into the service of the 
cause to which he is devoted is one of the most interesting 
problems of the future. It is the problem of Liberalism 
itself the problem of how far the principles of Liberalism 
which have worked out the civil and religious freedom 
of the people can be successfully applied to securing 
their economic freedom, and their liberation from the 
serfdom of circumstance and the wrongs of social 

Few men have appealed less to the gallery than Mr 
Harcourt. He does not scan far horizons. He does 
not declare any vision of a promised land. He has no 
passionate fervour for humanity, and is too honest to 
pretend to any. He is a practical politician, with no 
dithyrambs. He loves the intricacies of the campaign 
more than the visionary gleam, the actual more than the 

124 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

potential, present facts more than future fancies. He is 
the man without a dream. 

But he is the type of man who brings the dreams of 
others to pass the builder who translates the imagina- 
tion of the architect into terms of wood and stone. 
Other men will prophesy ; he will perform. Other men 
will create the atmosphere of change ; he will give it 
form and shape. He is the man who " puts things 
through." There has been no more striking feat ot 

o o 

supple capacity combined with unyielding purpose than 
his conduct of the Small Holdings Act last Session. 
His smile is more potent than the speeches of other 
men. He has you unhorsed with a phrase. And when 
you think to catch him napping, you find that he has all 
his battalions within earshot, ready to descend on you 
like an avalanche. He is the organiser of victory, the 
general who will not lose a gun. 

Mr Harcourt has the manners and the mental 
habitudes of the ancien regime. He would not pass 
for a parvenu. You would not associate his origins with 
dry goods. His philosophy is that of Walpole, and it 
is of that statesman more than any other that he reminds 
you. There is about him nothing of the hurry of the 
Twentieth Century, and no suspicion of its feverish 
intellectual unrest. The riddles of the universe do not 
disturb him. He is the man of leisure and of taste, who 
is very pleased with the world and entirely at home 
in it. He has the security and ease that come from 
generations of spacious life. If he drops into poetry you 
expect it to be Horatian, and when he tells a story it has 
the flavour of the great world. He suggests ancestors, 
knights in armour, bishops in lawn sleeves, stalwart 
Eighteenth Century squires striding over ploughed lands 

Lewis Harcourt 125 

with a gun and drinking their three bottles at night in 
Georgian mansions, masterful men all, lords of many 
acres, politely familiar with the classics, their walls hung 
with Lely's leering ladies and Kneller's unimaginative 

He is at once curiously like and unlike his father. 
He has Sir William's great height he stands six foot 
two or so but he is as lean as Cassius, while his father's 
girth was Falstaffian. Sir William was a famous 
trencherman, with the constitution of a Norse hero ; his 
son is delicate and fastidious, and when he comes into 
the room he looks for the draughts. He has his father's 
wit, but none of his father's irascibility. He smiles 
urbanely where his father thundered. He has the grand 
m'anner of his father ; but men never joke about his 
Plantagenet descent, though to his father's Royal 
pedigree he adds another kinship with royalty through 
his mother, a Clarendon. The toast of " Sir William 
Harcourt and the rest of the Royal Family" is never 
adapted to his case. But he is not indifferent to the 
other branch of the family, and is a close friend of the 
King, whom he entertains at Nuneham in regal state. 
For he has great wealth through his wife, the daughter 
of the late Mr W. H. Burns, of New York. The heavy, 
untuned voice like the late Duke of Devonshire's, the 
voice of an authentic aristocracy, broken, I suppose, in 
the "view halloo" of generations of fox-hunting forebears 
is not adapted to rhetoric ; but his speeches are of the 
same vintage as Sir William's, and when he rises the 
House knows that it is going to have some innocent 

There is a certain incongruity between a man of such 
powers and his office. It is like Hackenschmidt wheel- 

126 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

ing a perambulator. But he wheels it astonishingly 
well, and seems to enjoy the task. He has raised the 
office of First Commissioner of Works to a level that 
it had never reached before. He has shown in it the 
same managing spirit that he revealed at the Home 
Counties Liberal Federation for the triumph around 
London in 1906 was his and which is restoring the 
ancient glories of the Nuneham seat which came to him 
in some embarrassment and decay. He has saved the 
time of the House by simplifying the divisions ; he has 
reorganised the catering as adroitly as though he had 
spent his youth at Spiers and Pond's instead of Eton ; he 
has rearranged the dining-rooms and won the heart of 
everybody by his thoughtful stewardship. He has 
inaugurated a great scheme for the development of the 
public galleries, and has worked wonders in the Royal 
parks, raising wages, cheapening refreshments, giving 
facilities for games. I know of no pleasanter fact about 
him than his consideration for the children. He has 
some charming children of his own, and perhaps that 
is why he remembers other people's little girls and boys 
who have no Nuneham Park to play in. His happy 
idea of making some of the animals in the Zoo visible 
from the outside where the children play in Regent's 
Park is an illustration of this engaging side of his 
character and administration. 

When he resigns the perambulator, Parliament will 
discover behind this exterior of polite persiflage one of 
the two ablest executive brains in politics, a capacious 
mind moving without haste and without deviation to 
deeply considered ends, subtle, adroit, resourceful 
omnia capax imperil, but most capable of all in ruling 
men whom he knows through and through while he 

Lewis Harcourt 127 

himself remains always something of a mystery. For 
he has none of the self-revelation of Mr Churchill, who 
throws all his cards on the table with the careless frank- 
ness of Fox, and turns out his mind with the joy of a 
boy turning out his pockets. Mr Harcourt has his 
battalions masked. 

" What I really think," he says. 

" What you really think ! " you reply. 


IT was a wonderful apparition of vitality that burst 
in on me one morning at the Hotel Cecil, where I 
had called to breakfast with William Jennings Bryan. 
" Now, sir," he said with that air of plunging straight 
into business so characteristic of the American, " I find 
my resolution at the Inter-Parliamentary Conference is 
down for 9.30, and to save time I 've had breakfast early, 
so that while you are breakfasting I can talk right 
along." And, seizing a chair, he sat down and " talked 
right along." 

There is about him the primal energy and directness 
of nature. He is a Niagara of a man, a resistless torrent 
of inexhaustible force, thundering along in a sort of 
ebullient joy, mind and body in perfect equipoise. It 
is not the hurry and frenzy of the city that possesses 
him ; but the free, untrammelled spirit of the West, with 
its spacious skies and primeval forests and illimitable 
prairies. He has the simplicity of a son of the plains. 
His mind moves in large curves, and sweeps along in 
royal unconsciousness of academic restraints and niceties. 
You do not remember the proprieties in his presence, 
any more than you would remember them in the 
presence of a hurricane. For he comes right down to 
the bed-rock of things, and his hammer rings out blows 
that seem to have the Universe for a sounding-board. 


riwto by R. It nines To j ace p. 128 


William Jennings Bryan 129 

As he talks, you understand that thrilling scene when 
the young unknown Nebraskan stampeded the Demo- 
cratic Convention in 1896 and swept all rivals out of 
the field with his " cross of gold " speech. 

Before he has spoken his presence arrests you. You 
cannot come in sudden contact with him without a cer- 
tain shock of expectation. He leaps out at you, as it 
were, from the drab canvas of humanity. The big, loose 
frame, the massive head, the bold sculpture of the face, 
the black, lustrous eyes, so direct and intense, the large 
governing nose, the wide, straight mouth, with lips tight 
pressed, and the firm, broad chin together convey an 
impression of decision and power which is irresistible. 
It is difficult to believe that a man can be so strong as 
Mr Bryan looks. Together with this appearance of 
elemental power there is the sense of an elemental 
gentleness, a natural chivalry, a frank and human kindli- 
ness. He has the unaffected courtesy not of one who 
stoops to conquer, but of one who is unconscious of 
social or intellectual fences. He lives, as it were, on the 
broad, free plain of a common humanity. 

His face is typically American. It is often said that 
the American type has not yet emerged from the welter 
of races out of which the ultimate American people are 
to be fashioned. But there is a dominant profile visible. 
It is the profile of M'Kinley and Bryan. It is the 
profile which suggests quite startlingly the character- 
istics of the aboriginal race of North America, and raises 
in perhaps the most piquant form the problem of the 
influence of climate on physique and character. Mr 
Bernard Shaw gives so large a place to that influence 
that he seems to suggest that if only our dull English 
Broad bents ] t could arrange to be born and to live in 


130 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Ireland they would become as imaginative and bright- 
witted as himself. Certainly the tendency of the 
Americans to revert to the physical contours of the 
Red Man a tendency which has been commented on 
by many observers, including Mr Ford Madox Hueffer, 
whom I found after his visit to America deeply im- 
pressed with the phenomenon is too well marked to be 

Mr Bryan is typical, too, of the American in tempera- 
ment and intellectual outlook. It is the temperament 
of youth, incident to a people in the making and to a 
light and stimulating air. The wine is new in the bottle. 
It lacks the mellowness of the 

. . . vintage that has been 
Cooled a long age in the deep delved earth. 

It is exhilarating and expresses itself in a sanguine and 
dazzling optimism that goes out to meet great adventure 
with a challenging heart. There is a certain crudity in 
Mr Bryan's mind. It seems the product not of centuries 
of civilisation, but of a civilisation that has just realised 
itself. The obvious has still the bloom of the dawn 
upon it, and that which the sophisticated mind takes 
for understood is subject to elaborate exposition. His 
intellect is bold rather than subtle, masculine rather 
than meticulous. His eye ranges over great horizons 
and sees the landscape in the large. His weapon is not 
the rapier, but the hammer of Thor. He is elemental' 
and not " precious." If you talk to him of poetry you 
will find him indifferent to the heavy-laden incense of 
Keats, but quickly responsive to the austere note of 
Milton. For his mind is charged with the spirit of New 
England Puritanism, and if ever a monument is erected 
to him it should be on Plymouth Rock. 

William Jennings Bryan 131 

Had Mr Bryan not been a politician, he would have 
been the greatest revivalist of our time. His qualities 
as a statesman have yet to be proved. His qualities as 
a preacher are indisputable. He is, before all else, the 
hot gospeller of national righteousness. Even in appear- 
ance, with his white cravat and his black tie, he suggests 
the Methodist divine. His appeal is always to the 
moral conscience. The name of the Almighty is as 
familiar on his lips as it was on the lips of Gladstone. 
And it is the highest tribute to his sincerity that in 
employing it he never gives you the sense of canting. 
The truth is that he lives in an atmosphere out of which 
our politics have passed. No one to-day in the House 
of Commons ever dares to touch the spiritual note. 
When we say that oratory is dead we mean that faith, 
which is the soul of oratory, is dead. Oratory fell to 
earth when Gladstone and Bright ceased to wing it with 
spiritual passion. Our wagon is no longer hitched to 
a star. 

Now the supreme fact about Mr Bryan is that he 
mingles religion and politics in the same breath. They 
are not distinguishable from each other. They are fused 
into one theme. His talk is like the talk of Cromwell, 
so full is it of Biblical imagery and phraseology. Thus, 
speaking of the political awakening in America, he 
passes naturally to the moral and spiritual awakening 
as its basis. " Are you aware that the country has been 
going through a great revival of religion ? Certainly it 
is true. Don't you know about the evangelistic move- 
ment, that most impressive movement towards a more 
personal realisation of the Gospel ? It has taken posses- 
sion of the Churches everywhere. It has quickened 
religion. It has brought in the men and organised 

132 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

them. And there is a new note in popular religion. 
While it is quickened on its personal side, it has come 
to a new understanding of the social significance of 
Christianity. Christ said no, it was one of the Disciples, 
but the authority is pretty good still : ' He that saith he 
is in the light and hateth his brother is in darkness even 
until now.' " 

" The time has come," he says, " when it is perceived 
that religion is a concern that has to do with the family, 
the city and the nation, with business and with politics, 
as well as with what is called the individual life. No man 
can individually be a religious man who commercially 
acts irreligiously or politically consents to irreligious 
measures. What we are witnessing is a revival of 
religion largely concerned with men and women as 
members of society." 

All his political thinking springs out of this soil of 
moral ideas. " The wages of sin is death," he says, " to 
the nation as much as to the individual. In the case of 
a nation a century may elapse between the sowing of 
the wind and the reaping of the whirlwind, but the one 
follows the other." He stands by the historic view of 
America as the land of the ploughshare and not of the 
sword. Not that he is afraid of unsheathing the sword 
in a just cause. He himself raised a Nebraskan regi- 
ment in the Spanish-American war, and was himself 
its colonel. But aggression he hates. " What is this 
growth of militarism for? If it is due to a fear of 
labour troubles, why not deal with them through the 
Department of Justice rather than through the Depart- 
ment of War? If it is due to Imperialism, then Im- 
perialism attacks the most vital Christian principle 
namely, the propagation of good by example. What 

William Jennings Bryan 133 

has Imperialism done in the Philippines? It has sought 
to propagate good by force. It has been a policy of 
philanthropy and five per cent. Sir, it can't be done. 
Philanthropy goes to the wall. The five per cent, blinds 
us to the real welfare of the Filipinos. The Bible plan 
of propagating good is by example. ' So live that 
others, seeing your good works, may glorify your 
Father.' " 

So with the Tariff issue. It is the moral aspect of 
Free Trade on which he dwells. The open door is the 
gospel of Brotherhood. Build up tariff walls, and you 
build up national enmities and armies and navies to 
support them. Break down tariff walls, and you estab- 
lish a common basis of peace between the nations. 
"Yes, I am a Tariff Reformer," he said to me I had 
mentioned his visit to Glasgow, where he had heard Mr 
Chamberlain open his fiscal campaign " but a Tariff 
Reformer with us, you know, is a Free Trader. Pro- 
tection is a stumbling block to progress and peace. It 
is a cruel injustice to the poor, for taxes upon consump- 
tion always bear heaviest upon the poor and lightest 
upon the rich. Under taxes on consumption, men 
contribute, not in proportion to property and income, 
but in proportion to what they eat, drink, wear, and use. 
Taxes on consumption are taxes upon our needs, and 
men's needs, being created by the Almighty, are much 
more nearly equal than their possessions. No, sir, to 
me the fact that Protection taxes our needs and Free 
Trade taxes our possessions, that the taxation of Protec- 
tion is cunning and concealed and the taxation of Free 
Trade is open and direct, is final." 

It is of Bright Bright with a slight American accent 
that you think as the broad stream of his talk flows 

134 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

on. " I sail from headland to headland, " said Bright, 
" while Gladstone navigates every creek and inlet." And 
so it is with Bryan. His canvas bellies with the great 
wind. He does not tack and trim, but keeps to the 
well-charted highway and the open sea. It is this 
breadth of appeal, this large sculpture of his thought 
the result of that moral purpose which gives its simple 
unity and coherence that has made him the most 
powerful popular orator in the English-speaking world. 
It is true that he has twice failed to win the Presidency ; 
but his failures were more dazzling than the triumphs 
of other men. There has been nothing in political 
annals to compare with these two great presidential 
campaigns. He went through the country like a whirl- 
wind. Merely as a physical performance they stand 
alone. In the four months' electioneering in 1896 he 
travelled 18,000 miles and delivered 2100 speeches to 
an estimated total of 8,000,000 people. During the last 
few weeks he often spoke thirty-five times a day, and 
once forty-one times. His force never faltered and his 
passion never lost its hold. " I saw women in hysterics 
and men with tears in their eyes at his entrance," says 
an American journalist, describing the scene at a meet- 
ing at Indianapolis, where the great audience had sat in 
a temperature of 1 10 degrees waiting hour by hour for 
the candidate held up by the train. " I timed the length 
of excitement. It was twenty minutes before Bryan 
could sit down." His power owes nothing to rhetorical 
trickery. His voice is rich, deep, and musical ; but he 
does not use it with conscious display. He talks quite 
simply and naturally, and uses few gestures. 

The physical resources which this Titanic campaigning 
indicates are a tribute to the stock from which he 

William Jennings Bryan 135 

springs. " So far as I have been able to discover," he 
told me with a smile, " I embody the British Isles, for 
my ancestry is English, Irish, and Scotch." 

The intensity of the feeling against him among the 
Republican and propertied classes can only be indicated 
by recalling the attitude of English society towards 
Sir H. Campbell - Bannerman at the time of the 
war. I had a sudden revelation of it at dinner one 
night when seated beside an American lady. At the 
mention of his name her serenity vanished, and she 
burst into a torrent of invective that left him a moral 
ruin. But, hateful as his democratic doctrines are to 
his opponents, no one ever challenges their sincerity or 
doubts his honesty. He has carried that honesty into 
business. He left the law for journalism, and owns a 
newspaper, The Commoner, at Lincoln, Nebraska, and in 
that paper he never allows any trust-made article to be 
advertised. That, nevertheless, he draws an income of 
;6ooo a year from it is a pleasant evidence that it is 
possible to be at once honest and prosperous even in 

And, indeed, whether he becomes President or not, 
the fact that a man of this type is the most popular 
figure in America is a reassuring feature in the dark sky 
of its future. All the elements of a hideous ruin and 
combustion are visible. A Constitution, rigid and in- 
elastic and founded on unqualified individualism, has 
allowed the growth of a Trust system which holds the 
State in the hollow of its hand. The land of the free 
has become a land of economic serfs, its franchises 
exploited by financial highwaymen, its municipalities 
sinks of corruption, its necessaries shut out by a tyran- 
nous Protective tariff built up by the Republican Party 

136 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

at the dictation of the plutocratic power that dominates 
it. Underneath is the volcanic fire of an insurgent 
people. If the disaster that threatens is to be escaped, 
it can only be by a new war of emancipation that will 
strike the fetters of private monopoly off the limbs of 
the democracy. It is the liberation of a people for 
which Mr Bryan stands. And as you look at the clear, 
resolute eye and the large, masterful face, you feel that 
here, if anywhere, is the man who can shoot Niagara. 

Photo l>y Rercsford 

To face p. 137 



WHEN Murray complained to Byron that some of his 
poetry was dull, Byron replied : " You can no more have 
poetry all gems than a midnight all stars." So it is 
with the House of Commons. Ordinarily it is a very 
dull place. There is a general air of lassitude and 
weariness. The benches are thinly peopled with men 
who seem tired of each other's company. They lounge 
about in every attitude of negligent inattention. Some- 
one is droning away on a back bench, but he is unheard 
amid the babble of idle conversation ; for, though you 
may not read a book or a paper in the House, you may 
chatter as fluently as a parrakeet at the Zoo. Super- 
ficially it is a gathering of the comfortable unemployed, 
waiting for something to turn up. Occasionally some- 
thing does turn up, and then the House leaps to life as 
if by magic. It has moments more dramatic, more 
intense than any stage. 

There was such a moment one afternoon in 1903. 
Mr Chamberlain had just flung his bomb into the 
astonished country, and the House was reeling and re- 
verberating with the concussion. It was as though the 
familiar continent of politics had been engulfed by the 
sea, and all the submerged politicians were struggling 
to find a footing in the new one that had suddenly come 
from the depths. On this afternoon the air was electric 

138 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

with a suppressed excitement ; the benches crowded, 
the faces of men flushed and expectant. Most flushed 
of all was the swarthy face of Mr Ritchie, Chancellor of 
the Exchequer. He had come down to deliver his soul 
a plain, bluff, honest man, conscious of the keen, 
unnerving presence of the bomb-thrower in the corner 
seat behind. A question was put. No, said courtly Mr 
Speaker Gully, the general fiscal question could not 
under the rules be discussed. It was as though a cold 
douche had suddenly descended from the ceiling. The 
drama, then, was to be strangled by red tape. Mr 
Ritchie moves from his seat along the front bench, 
whispers to the Chair, gesticulates to the Chair. A 
moment later the prim, clean-shaven lawyer quietly 
retires, and a jovial-looking country gentleman, ruddy 
and bearded, takes his place. And when Mr Ritchie 
rises to speak, and plunges boldly into the fiscal question, 
there is not a murmur of rebuke from the Chair. When 
he sits down, Mr Speaker returns with his red tape, and 
the House subsides into the atmosphere of formality 
that he loves. 

The incident typifies the difference between Mr 
Speaker Lowther and his predecessor. Under Mr 
Gully the House lived in a strait-waistcoat of legal 
technicality. It crackled with parchment. It was 
"cribb'd, cabin'd, and confin'd." Its air was the air of 
a lawyer's office. Blackstone sat heavy upon its chest. 
It was a dry, arid place. 

When Mr Lowther succeeded to the Chair, he opened 
the windows and let in the fresh air. He came bringing 
a jolly breeze with him from the country. It is true 
that he wears a wig and knee breeches, and silver 
buckles on his shoes ; but all that is make-believe. In 

The Speaker 139 

his pocket, you suspect, there is a pipe, and you feel con- 
vinced that he has just come from tramping the moors 
in very thick boots, with a gun and a dog for company. 
Or, if that is impossible, then he has been having half 
an hour at the nets at Lord's, or a little sword practice 
with his maitre d'armes, for he is still young enough to 
enjoy the matchless sensation of a " late cut " and the 
swift pleasure of the foils. The fact probably is that he 
has been stewing since nine o'clock over the " Orders of 
the Day," and the way he shall parry the strokes of 
those terrible Irishmen whose wits are swords. But I 
speak of the impression he conveys. It is the impres- 
sion of the fresh air and the sunshine, of league-long 
furrows, and of the open sky on the rolling moor. He 
seems to be a casual presence in this dim chamber. He 
has strolled in in a moment of aberration, and has taken 
the seat nearest at hand a cheerful, bucolic man, sound 
in wind and limb, digestion excellent, brain clear and 
cool, temper unruffled. 

The Speaker stamps his own personality inevitably 
upon the House. If he is acrid, the temper of the 
House will be acrid ; if he is stiff and formal, the House 
will be stiff and formal ; if he is jolly, the House will be 
jolly. To-day it is jolly. Mr Peel ruled by awe, Mr 
Gully by law, Mr Lowther rules by a certain bluff 
common sense and good humour which communicate 
themselves to the members. He makes them feel at 
home. He is one of themselves. It is not a chill, re- 
buking figure that sits up there in wig and gown, ready 
to pounce on you and send you to the Clock Tower. It 
is a man and a brother. If he raps you across the 
knuckles, he does it with so much geniality that you feel 
that you ought to thank him. 

140 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

He kicks you downstairs with such infinite grace, 
You might think he was handing you up. 

" Grace " is perhaps not the word for that heavy voice 
and solid manner. It is rather the hearty goodwill of a 
jovial companion who really loves you in spite of your 
frailties, and scourges you for your own good. Even 
when he came down with such a heavy hand on Sir 
Howard Vincent, that garrulous knight was able to 
share the enjoyment of the House. The question was 
the deportation of Lajpat Rai, and Sir Howard inter- 
polated, sotto voce, " Why not shoot him ? " Low 
though it was spoken, it did not escape the terrible ear 
of Mr Swift MacNeill, the watch-dog of the Parliamen- 
tary proprieties. " Mr Speaker " and the whispered 
words were boomed out on the ears of the indig- 
nant House. " I was only speaking to myself," said 
the discomfited Sir Howard. " The observation did 
not reach my ears," said the Speaker ; " that is all I 
am prepared to say as to that. I should like to add 
this that if the honourable and gallant member for 
Sheffield would control the observations which he is 
always interjecting, not only during question time, but 
during debate, it would be to the general advantage of 
the House." It was severe, it was just, and it was 
kindly said. That is the special grace of the Speaker. 
He is the antithesis of the gentleman in the song of 
whom it is said that " it is not so much the things he 
says as the nasty way he says them." He says un- 
pleasant things in a pleasant way. 

He is at his best when the waves run highest. Then 
he is like oil on the troubled waters. Take that memor- 
able afternoon when the militant Suffragists stormed the 
Ladies' Gallery, which is over the Chair and invisible to 

The Speaker 141 

the Speaker, and flourished their banners, with the legend 
" Votes for Women," in the face of the astonished House. 
There followed a sound of scuffling and disorder behind 
the grille which effectually screens the ladies from the 
vision of the members. Everyone knew what it meant. 
The police were dislodging the invaders. Instantly the 
storm reacted on the House. Brave hearts below 
answered to the cry of distress from above, "There 
were girls in the gold reef city," and Mr Willie Red- 
mond was not the man to hear their cry of agony 
unmoved. Up he sprang like a knight of old romance. 
" Mr Speaker, Sir, is it in accordance with your will that 
a barbarous police should be called in to assault our 
wives and daughters ? " and his voice shook with chival- 
rous passion. It was a great moment. The House was 
rent with the passion of a sudden issue. Forked light- 
nings flashed about the Chamber. Anything might 
happen. There was a breathless pause. What would the 
Speaker say ? Would he defend the police ? Would 

he denounce the women ? Would he ? Whatever 

happened, the storm must break. " Unfortunately," said 
the Speaker, rising with great solemnity, " I seem to be 
the only member of the House who is unable to see what 
is taking place," and he looked up pathetically at the 
canopy that overhangs his chair. The tension broke in 
a roar of universal laughter, and the storm passed in 
summer lightnings. There will never be a fight on the 
floor of the House while Mr Lowther is in the Chair. 

I do not know what the quality of his fencing, which 
he practises twice a week with his French maitre d'armes, 
is, but I should imagine that, if he has less Gallic swift- 
ness than Sir Charles Dilke, who is the swordsman of 
the House, he is nevertheless a difficult man to disarm. 

142 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

For he never loses his head and he never loses his 
temper. The harder he is pressed the cooler he be- 
comes. A duel between him and Mr " Tim " Healy, 
the maitre d'armes of political fencing, is the greatest 
luxury the House affords. The thrusts of Mr " Tim " 
are sudden as lightning, flashing now from that region 
of the sky, now from this. You look to see whether the 
stroke has fallen. Ajax, in his full-bottomed wig, stands 
solid and imperturbable. He takes his time, coughs 
drily, starts perhaps a little haltingly, but he comes 
round with a heavy sweep of his weapon and the thrust 
is turned. It is the English and the Irish mind in 
conflict, directness against swiftness, stubbornness against 
subtlety, rock against flame. I think the Speaker enjoys 
these moments. And it is the best tribute to his im- 
partiality that he commands the entire respect of the 
Irishmen, as of the whole House. 

It is said that when he was offered the Speakership 
he replied, " The Speakership will give me three things 
I don't need. It will give me a peerage, which I don't 
want ; it will give me a house in town : I have that 
already. It will give me a salary of .5000 a year, and 
my income is already sufficient." It gave him some- 
thing else that he did want It gave him the fulfilment 
of a wholesome ambition. It enabled him to put the 
crown upon a Parliamentary record which is, I believe, 
without parallel. A Lowther has come from Westmor- 
land to Westminster more or less continuously for some 
six centuries. During a century and a half there has 
been no break in his direct Parliamentary ancestry. 
Mr Lowther's great-grandfather sat for half a century, 
his grandfather for half a century, his father for a 
quarter of a century ; he himself entered the House in 

The Speaker 143 

1883 for Rutlandshire, after a few years' practice at the 
Bar. He is a hereditary legislator in the best sense. 
The spirit of Parliament is in his blood, and the honour 
of Parliament is to him something of a personal 

He will abandon none of its ancient forms or etiquette, 
but he tempers them with thoughtful concessions. 
When the poorer members of the House appealed to 
Mr Speaker Gully to make the wearing of Court dress 
at his functions optional, they were met with refusal. 
When they made the same appeal to Mr Speaker 
Lowther, they were met with refusal too ; but he promptly 
took the edge off the refusal by inaugurating a series of 
luncheons where the democratic "sansculottes" might 
be free from the tyranny of velvet and gold buttons and 
silver buckles. It was a wise compromise. No man in 
broadcloth and trousers can feel quite happy beside a 
man who is a sartorial poem. It is like pairing a stump 
speech with a song of Herrick. 

Mr Lowther's success is comforting to the plain man, 
for it is the success of his own russet-coated virtues. It 
is the success of one like himself of a plain man with- 
out a touch of genius, almost without a touch of brilli- 
ancy, but with all the qualities of the average man in 
perfect equilibrium. He has culture, loves painting 
almost as much as stalking the deer, has since the 
Cambridge days when, as Mr Lowthian R. Cade, he 
used to share the theatrical exploits of Lord Crewe, 
Mr Alfred Lyttelton, and others retained his interest 
in the drama, tells a good story, enjoys a good book. 
But he is essentially the ordinary man that is, the 
ordinary man in an extraordinary degree, his mind full 
of daylight, the range of his thought limited by the 

144 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

daylight vision, his instinct for justice sound, his spirit 
firm and masculine as the strong, well-tended hand that 
he rests upon the arm of the Speaker's chair. He is not 
one of those who bring new light into the thought of 
men or add to the sum of human effort. He is the type 
of the practical man who does his task honestly, firmly, 
and good-humouredly. That is why, taken all in all, 
he is the greatest Speaker of our time. For the office 
of Speaker does not demand rare qualities. It demands 
common qualities in a rare degree. 



WHETHER to friend or foe, the Rev. R. J. Campbell is 
one of the most arresting personalities in the London 
of our time. He is the voice of disquiet and of 
challenge. He is the disturber of our comfortable 
peace. He hurries with breathless eagerness from point 
to point, the lighted torch ever in his hand, the trail of 
conflagration ever in his wake. He follows no lead, 
except that of his own urgent, unquiet spirit. He is 
indifferent to consequences, will brook no interference, 
drives straight forward, deaf to appeals from the right 
hand or the left. Friends cannot persuade him ; parties 
cannot hold him ; creeds cannot limit him. He is like 
the wind that bloweth where it listeth. 

If stagnation is death and discontent divine, then 
he is one of the best assets of our time. He flings his 
bombs into the stagnant parlours of our thought, and 
thrills the air with the spirit of unrest. Acquiescence 
and content vanish at his challenge. The sleeper rubs 
his eyes. He is awake. The vision is before him. 
The air is filled with the murmur of many voices. He, 
too, must be up and doing. 

In the great, dim, industrial cities of the North, where, 
in the dark of the winter and the grey dawn of the 
summer mornings the women, clothed in their shawls 

and clogs, go forth to their labour in the mills, there 

145 10 

146 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

is a familiar figure. He is known as the " knocker-up." 
At four o'clock the clatter of his clogs rings down the 
silent street, and the thunder of his knock echoes from 
every door. He passes, and soon in the darkness there 
is the sound of a people awake. Doors bang, and voices 
ring out on the still air, and there follows the harsh 
music of a thousand clogs, pattering in shrill chorus to 
the mills. The battle of life has recommenced. 

Mr Campbell is the " knocker-up " in the dawn of the 
twentieth century. The chimes of the great cathedral 
surge dreamful music on our slumbers ; but across from 
the City Temple comes the sound of a bell, violent, 
clangorous, insistent, that shatters sleep, and awakes 
the City. You may not like it. You may find it 
harsh and discordant. But at least it makes you leap 
to your feet, if only to take up its challenge* 

Nonconformity does not know what to make of this 
apparition that has suddenly burst into its midst. It 
finds its throne, as it were, in the hands of the revolution- 
ary. It finds the old flags that waved from the keep 
hauled down, and the twin flags of the " New Theology " 
and Socialism flying defiantly in the breeze. It finds 
its doctrines vaporised into thin air, diffused into a kind 
of purple mist, beautiful, but intangible. It finds itself 
indicted in its own cathedral for the sin of Pharisaism, 
pictured to the world as Mrs Oliphant loved to picture 
it as a system of smug content, caricatured in the 
bitter sneer of Swift : 

We are God's chosen few ; 

All others will be damned. 
There is no place in heaven for you : 

We can't have heaven crammed. 

It has borne the scourge with singular restraint. It 

The Rev. R. J. Campbell 147 

knows that there has been a certain truth in the charge 
in the past. It knows that there is less truth in it to-day 
than at any time since it was born out of the purging 
fires of persecution. It has been the Church of the 
middle classes ; but its future, as Sir Compton Rickett 
has said, is with the people, and it is to them that its 
appeal is directed to-day. The work of men like F. B. 
Meyer and John Clifford, Silvester Home and Ensor 
Walters, Campbell-Morgan and Thomas Phillips, reflects 
the new spirit that has been breathed in these days into 
the dry bones of Nonconformity. 

It is otherwise with the challenge to its faith. Here 
Mr Campbell has done a real service. He has done the 
service to the religious world which Mr Chamberlain did 
to the political world when he challenged the economic 
structure of the State. He was wrong ; but he made us 
discover that we were right. He set the whole nation 
to think out the problem of its economic existence. We 
had accepted the faith as final, and had forgotten its 
very elements. We were in servitude to a theory that 
we did not understand and did not want to understand. 
He made us dig down to our foundations and see if they 
were true. He put us on our defence, and taught us our 
case. And so Free Trade was born again. It was a 
fetish: it has become a faith. This we owe to Mr 

And so with Mr Campbell. He has challenged our 
religious structure at its centre. He has set the mind 
of his time seething with unrest and inquiry. He has 
lighted a fire which will burn up the refuse and leave the 
residue pure and vital. He has made the man in the 
street think about ultimate things, and no one can do a 
greater service to his time. 

148 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

"But," says the Divinity Student, "think of the 

" The danger to what ? " asks the Autocrat. 

" The danger to Truth," says the Divinity Student. 

And the Autocrat answers, " Truth is tough. You 
may kick it about all day like a football, and it will be 
round and full like the moon at evening, while Error dies 
of the prick of a pin." We need not worry about Truth. 
It comes out of the battle-smoke unharmed, leaving the 
Lie dead upon the plain. 

The Churches needed this challenge. They had 
ceased to face those obstinate questionings of the 
intellect which will not be stilled, or, if they are stilled, 
are stilled only as the restless strivings of the fevered 
patient are stilled with the drugs of a deathly indiffer- 
ence. The world was passing them by. Mr Campbell 
has made them dig down to their foundations. He has 
put them upon their defence, and out of the dust and 
heat of the conflict it may be that faith will be born 

It is not uncommon to hear him dismissed as a rather 
crude mind rushing in where wiser men fear to tread, 
and fighting out his doubts in the public eye. There is 
a certain truth in the criticism. He is the ordinary man 
thinking furiously aloud. He is the preacher wrestling 
with the plain man's doubts in the pulpit. He is not so 
much fighting for the souls of his hearers as for his own 
soul, and in that intense drama the man from the 
counting-house and the shop sees mirrored his own 
disquiet and his own hunger. Perhaps he, too, out of 
this conflict may catch a vision of the Promised Land. 
It is this fact that makes him the most attractive pulpit 
personality of the day to those outside the churches. 

The Rev. R. J. Campbell 149 

The orthodox view him with coldness or alarm. He 
shakes the pillars of the temple and brings the familiar 
fabric tumbling about their ears, without providing 
another structure equally solid and secure to receive 
them. He invites them out into the open in pursuit of 
the rainbow. But to the soul adrift from the churches, 
yet consumed with the hunger for some revelation that 
the world cannot provide, the pursuit of the rainbow 
offers an emotion and a vision that stimulate if they do 
not satisfy. This visionary fervour is expressed with 
unaffected sincerity and simplicity. In the oratory of 
Dr Parker there was always a suggestion of the stage. 
It was not that he was insincere, but that the instinct 
of the drama was ineradicable. He could not forget 
the limelight, and loved the echoes of his own thunder. 
Mr Campbell delivers himself up to his emotion with 
absolute surrender of the ego. He goes out of himself, 
as it were, into space. There is no strain either of 
thought or diction, no effort after effect, no flowers of 
speech. He speaks as the spirit moves him, without 
literary consciousness and without any thought of con- 
sequences. It is not without spiritual relevance that 
the pulpit of the City Temple used to be filled by an 
old man with a black mane and is now filled by a young 
man with a white. 

For the leader of a great crusade, he has one serious 
defect. He is intensely sensitive to criticism. He plays 
at bowls, but does not look for rubbers. He " comes 
through," as they say on the green, with crashing force, 
scattering the " woods " in his path, and he seems sur- 
prised that the woods do not get out of the way, with 
polite apologies for their presence. " They don't burn 
you at the stake to-day," he said not long ago ; " they 

150 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

stab you in the back." Few men have invited reprisals 
more ; few men have been treated with more generosity 
by those who find their beliefs, their errors, if you will, 
suddenly and furiously assailed from within. 

He has another defect. It is a certain feverishness of 
the spirit. There is about him the sense of the hot, 
uneasy pillow. The raw edges of life chafe him. He 
cannot escape from the hair-shirt of this mortal vest- 
ment, and he cannot endure it Whatever is, is wrong. 
The Churches are wrong, society is wrong, Free Trade 
is wrong. It is this irritation with his environment that 
gives him the touch of perversity which is so noticeable 
in him. Nonconformity is definite ; he is mystical. 
Nonconformity is individualistic ; he is a member of the 
I.L.P. The I.L.P. is for Free Trade; he, I gather from a 
conversation I had with him, is for Tariff Reform. He 
conforms to no system, accepts no shibboleth, either 
spiritual or temporal. When Sir David Baird's mother 
heard that her son was captured in India and chained 
to natives, she remarked, placidly, " I pity the puir 
laddies that are chained to oor Dauvit." She knew the 
imperious waywardness of her son. The way of one 
chained intellectually to Mr Campbell would be not less 
trying. He has the impatience of the idealist in the 
presence of realities. The vision fades when he touches 
it concretely. " Now," as Lowell says, " now ain't just 
the minit that fits us easy while we're in it." The son 
of a United Methodist minister, brought up in the 
Presbyterian atmosphere of his grandfather's home at 
Belfast, he turned instinctively from the appeal of Non- 
conformity, with its lack of sensuous attraction, to that 
of Anglicanism, with its sense of historic continuity. 
In the conflict between loyalty to the Free Church 

The Rev. R. J. Campbell 151 

traditions of his ancestry, and the call of a more 
aesthetic system, his mind turned away from the pulpit. 
He married and took up the teaching profession. Then, 
with that impulsiveness that drives him, he set out for 
Oxford, his mind still under the influence of Anglicanism. 
But the atmosphere of Oxford was Anglican, and that 
fact so subversive of the Nonconformity of the normal 
man headed him back to the original fold. It was 
not lack of sympathy, for the singular charm of his 
personality made a deep impression on Dr Paget, and 
Dr Gore was especially anxious to secure so powerful 
a recruit for the Church. It was the instinct of the 
nomadic spirit to escape from the encompassing fold. 
It was the operation of what the psychologists call 
" contrarient ideas." The one way to prevent him going 
in a given direction is to urge him to go. The one way 
to enlist him in a cause is to prove that it is contrary 
to all tradition and propriety. 

When men reflect upon Mr Campbell's astonishing 
career, one question rises to their lips : Whither ? 
There is no answer. I question whether Mr Campbell 
himself has an answer. He belongs to no planetary 
system. He is a lonely wanderer through space a trail 
of fire burning at white heat, and flashing through the 
inscrutable night to its unknown goal. His head grey 
in his youth, his eyes eloquent with some nameless 
hunger, his face thin and pallid, his physique frail as 
that of an ascetic of the desert, he stands before us a 
figure of singular fascination and disquiet, a symbol of 
the world's passionate yearning after the dimly-appre- 
hended ideal, of its unquenchable revolt against the 
agonies of men. 


I WAS seated at dinner one night at 10 Downing 
Street beside a distinguished Liberal. " What a wonder- 
ful bust of Chamberlain that is in the hall," I said. 
" Ah," he replied ; " you mean the bust of Pitt. Yes, 
it is marvellously like Chamberlain. I wonder," he 
went on, musingly, as though the question fitted in with 
his train of thought " I wonder what will happen to 
Chamberlain's successor." I looked up. "Chamberlain's 
successor ? You mean " " Lloyd George, of course." 

There was a faint hint of reproof in the " of course," 
as though I had asked solemnly for an explanation of 
the obvious. I looked down the table to where Mr 
Lloyd George himself sat, his face lit with that smile, 
so quick and sunny, yet so obscure, his light voice 
penetrating the hum of conversation, with its note of 
mingled seriousness and banter, his whole air, at once 
so alert and self-poised, full of a baffling fascination and 
disquiet. Yes, here was the unknown factor of the 
future, here the potentiality of politics. 

And here, too, was its romance. My mind turned to 
that little village between the mountains and the sea, 
where the fatherless boy learned the rudiments of know- 
ledge in the village school, and where, in leading his 
school-fellows in a revolt against the Catechism, he gave 

the first hint of the mettle that was in him. I saw 


Photo by Elliott &> Fry 

To face p. 152 


David Lloyd George 153 

the kindly old uncle, bootmaker and local preacher, 
worrying out the declensions and the irregular verbs of 
strange tongues in order to pave the path of the boy to 
the law. I saw him at twenty-one a qualified solicitor, 
with his foot on the ladder, fighting the battle of the 
village folk against the tyranny of the parson, who 
refused the dying wish of a Dissenter to be buried in 
his child's grave. " Bury him where he wished to be," 
said young Lloyd George, strong in the law. " But if 
the gate is locked ? " " Break down the gate." And 
the old man was buried in his child's grave, and solemn 
judges in London pronounced a solemn verdict in 
support of the young Hampden. I saw him, still little 
more than a lad, leaping into the ring, and challenging 
the squire of his village for the possession of the Car- 
narvon Boroughs challenging him and beating him. 
I saw him, with nothing but his native wit and his 
high-soaring courage to help him, flashing into the great 
world of politics, risking his fortune and even his life in 
support of an unpopular cause, escaping from Birming- 
ham Town Hall in the clothes of a policeman, his name 
the symbol of fierce enthusiasms and fiercer hates. 
And then I saw him, transformed from the brilliant 
free-lance into the serious statesman, the head of a 
great department, handling huge problems of government 
with easy mastery, moving great merchant princes like 
pawns on his chess-board, winning golden opinions from 
all sides, his name always on the lips of the world, but 
no longer in hate rather in a wondering admiration, 
mingled with doubt. And now there he sat, the man 
who has "arrived," the most piquant and the most 
baffling figure in politics the man, perchance, with 
the key of the future. 

154 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

What is the secret of it all ? In the first place, 
audacity. Danton's great maxim is with him, as with 
Mr Chamberlain, the guiding principle of conduct. He 
swoops down on opportunity like a hawk on its prey. 
He does not pause to think : he acts. He has no fear. 
The bigger the task, the better he likes it. The higher 
the stakes, the more heroic his play. He never fears to 
put his fate to the touch. He risks his all on a throw. 
When the great moment came he seized it with both 
hands. He had two motives : his love of the small 
nationality and his instinct for the great game. The 
one gave him passion, the other calculation. Here was 
the occasion : he was the man. His business was 
being ruined : no matter. His life and his home were 
threatened : good. The greater the perils, the greater 
the victory. And 

We roared " Hurrah ! " and so 
The little Revenge ran on right into the heart of the foe 

ran on and lashed itself to the great San Philip of 
Birmingham, and came out of the battle-smoke victorious 
the one reputation made by the war, the one fortune 
born on the battlefield where so many were buried. 

And he has not only the eye for the big occasion and 
the courage that rises to it : he has the instinct for the 
big foe. He is the hunter of great game. " Don't waste 
your powder and shot on the small animals," said 
Disraeli, and he hung on to the flank of Peel. " Go for 
the lion," was Randolph Churchill's maxim, and he gave 
Gladstone no pause. Even to snap at the heels of the 
great is fame. It is to catch the limelight that streams 
upon the stage. There are names that live in history 
simply because Gladstone noticed them. Lord Cross and 
Lord Cranbrook came to great estate merely because 

David Lloyd George 155 

they beat him at the poll. To have crossed swords with 
him was a career. Mr Lloyd George's eye ranged over 
the Government benches and he saw one figure worth 
fighting, and he leapt at that figure with concentrated 
and governed passion. It became a duel between him 
and Mr Chamberlain. It was a duel between the broad- 
sword and the rapier between the Saxon mind, direct 
and crashing as the thunderbolt ; and the Celtic mind, 
nimble and elusive as the lightning. 

He has, indeed, the swiftest mind in politics. It is a 
mind that carries no impedimenta. Hazlitt once wrote 
an essay on " The Ignorance of the Learned," and declared 
that " anyone who has passed through the regular 
gradations of a classical education and is not made a 
fool by it, may consider himself as having had a very 
narrow escape." Certainly the man of learning, unless 
he wears it lightly, as Macaulay said of Milton, starts 
with a heavy handicap when he comes down into the 
realm of affairs. Mr Lloyd George had no such handi- 
cap. He is like a runner ever stripped for the race. 
The pistol may go off when it likes : he is always away 
from the mark like an arrow. And it is not speed 
alone. When the hare is started he can twist and turn 
in full career, for the hotter the chase the cooler he 

He is the improviser of politics. He spins his web 
as he goes along. He thinks best on his feet. You 
can see the bolts being forged in the furnace of his 
mind. They come hurtling out molten and aflame. 
He electrifies his audience : but he suffers in print next 
morning, for the speech that thrills the ear by its 
impromptu brilliancy seldom bears the cold analysis of 
the eye. He is in this respect the antithesis of Mr 

156 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Churchill, though Mr Churchill is like him in daring. 
I once had a pleasant after-dinner talk with them on 
the subject of their oratorical methods. " I do not trust 
myself to the moment on a big occasion," said Mr 
Churchill. " I don't mind it in debate or in an ordinary 
platform speech ; but a set speech I learn to the letter. 
Mark Twain said to me, ' You ought to know a speech 
as you know your prayers,' and that's how I know mine. 
I've written a speech out six times in my own hand." 
" I couldn't do that," said Mr Lloyd George. " I must 
wait for the crisis. Here are my notes for the Queen's 
Hall speech." And he took out of his pocket a slip of 
paper with half-a-dozen phrases scrawled in his curiously 
slanting hand. The result is a certain thinness which 
contrasts with the breadth and literary form of Mr 
Churchill's handling of a subject, or with the massive 
march of Mr Asquith's utterance. 

He has passion, but it is controlled. It does not burn 
with the deep spiritual fire of Gladstone. It flashes and 
sparkles. It is an instrument that is used, not an 
obsession of the soul. You feel that it can be put aside 
as adroitly as it is taken up. And so with his humour. 
It coruscates ; it does not warm all the fibres of his 
utterance. It leaps out in light laughter. It is the 
humour of the quick mind rather than of the rich mind. 
" We will have Home Rule for Ireland and for England 
and for Scotland and for Wales," he said, addressing 
some Welsh farmers. " And for hell," interposed a 
deep, half-drunken voice. " Quite right. I like to hear 
a man stand up for his own country." 

The soil of his mind is astonishingly fertile, but light. 
He is always improvising. You feel that the theme is 
of secondary importance to the treatment. You have 

David Lloyd George 157 

an uneasy fear that this wonderful fluency of execution 
may presently reveal another motif. You listen. Your 
quickened ear seems to catch an adumbration of change. 
He keeps your mind on the stretch. He fascinates you, 
plays with you, holds you with the mesmerism of the 
unsolved riddle. You would give anything to know the 
thought behind that gay, debonair raillery. 

He is, indeed, the least doctrinaire of men as little 
doctrinaire as Mr Chamberlain. No anchor of theory 
holds him. He approaches life as if it were a new 
problem. It is a virgin country for him to fashion and 
shape. He is unconscious of the roads and fences of 
his forefathers. His maxims are his own, coined out of 
the metal quarried from his direct contact with life. 
He is not modern : he is momentary. There is no past : 
only the living present ; no teachers : only the living 
facts. This absolute reliance on self gives a certain 
sense of lack of atmosphere. There is no literature to 
soften the sharp lines. There are no cool grottoes of 
the mind, no green thought in a green shade. 

This detachment from tradition and theory is the 
source of his power, as it was the source of Mr Chamber- 
lain's power. He brings a fresh, untrammelled mind to 
the contemplation of every problem. It was said of 
Leighton that he looked at life through the eyes of a 
dead Greek. Mr Lloyd George looks at life with the 
frank self-assertion of a child, free from all formulas and 
prescriptions, seeing the thing, as it were, in a flash of 
truth, facing it without reverence because it is old and 
without fear because it is vast. " The thing is rotten," 
he says, and in a moment his mind has reconstructed it 
on lines that acknowledge no theory, except the theory 
of practical usefulness. Thus he has swept away the 

158 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

old, effete Port of London, and put in its place a system 
as original as it is ingenious. And all the world asks, 
Why was this not done years ago ? 

Like Falstaff, he is "quick, apprehensive, forgetive," 
but he does not, like Falstaff, owe these qualities to 
canary, for he is a teetotaler. He owes them to the 
Celtic spirit that races like a fever in his blood. His 
apprehensiveness, indeed, is amazing. He picks up a 
subject as he runs, through the living voice, never 
through books. He does not learn : he absorbs, and by 
a sort of instantaneous chemistry his mind condenses the 
gases to the concrete. 

His intellectual activity is bewildering. It is as diffi- 
cult to keep his name out of the paper as it was to keep 
King Charles's head out of Mr Dick's memorial. He is 
always " doing things " and always big things. His 
eye lights on an anachronism like the Patent Laws 
and straightway he sets it on fire. He does not pore 
over books to discover the facts about docks : he goes to 
Antwerp, to Hamburg, and sees. When he brought in 
his Merchant Shipping Bill he took a voyage to Spain 
and learned about ships. And his passion for action 
grows with what it feeds on. He has yet his trumps to 

With all this energy and daring, the astonishing thing 
is that he has won the confidence of the most sensitive 
class, the commercial class, without losing the confidence 
of the working class. Like Mr Chamberlain, he is 
essentially a middle-class statesman. He is no Socialist, 
for, as I have said, he has no theories, and Socialism is 
all theory. " England," he said to me once, " is based 
on commerce. No party can live by an appeal to labour 
alone : it must carry the commercial class as well as 

David Lloyd George 159 

labour with it. " " What can I do for commerce ? " was 
his first question at the Board of Trade. And he took 
up the Merchant Shipping Bill. " What can I do for 
labour ? " was his second question. And he incorporated 
in it those valuable provisions for improving the life of 
the seamen. 

Wales looks sorrowfully on at this giddy flight. He 
has passed out of its narrow sphere. The Parnell of 
Wales has become the Chamberlain of England. The 
vision of the young gladiator fighting the battle of the 
homeland has faded. 

Oh for a falconer's voice 
To charm the tassel-gentle back again 

back to the resounding hills and the old battle-cries 
that have grown far-off and faint, back to the pure 
idealism that stirred its pulse and its patriotism. It 
is proud of its brilliant son proud of the first Welsh- 
speaking Minister to enter a British Cabinet but it 
waits with a certain gathering gloom for its reward. Is 
it not thirteen years since he led a revolt against the 
Liberal party on Disestablishment, and is he not now 
a chief in the house of Pharaoh ? Once it has been on 
the point of revolt ; but he had only to appear, and it 
was soothed. Wales will get its reward quicker than if 
he had remained its Parnell; but it must await the 
propitious season. He is " forgetive," but he will not 
forget Wales. For Wales is not Birmingham. 

And so I turn to the figure at the end of the table, 
with the smile so quick and sunny, yet so obscure. If 
the key of the future is anywhere it is there. If the 
social fabric is to be reorganised, there is the man that 
can do it He stands in the furrow that Mr Chamberlain 
deserted. Mr Chamberlain put his hand to the plough 

160 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

and turned back. He failed because he lost the 
vision of his youth, and treated politics as a game, and 
not as a gospel. Mr Lloyd George will succeed in pro- 
portion to his fidelity to the inspiration, not of West- 
minster with its intrigues, but of Wales with its simple 

I turned to my neighbour, and I said," Yes, I wonder." 

To f. ice p. 161 



WHEN General Booth rises to receive you in his office 
in Queen Victoria Street, the first impression you have 
is of the alertness of the lithe, lean form in its frogged 
coat with the legend " Blood and Fire " blazing in red 
letters below the reverend white beard. The second 
impression comes from the eye. Certain men live in the 
memory by the quality of the eye alone. That was so 
in the case of Gladstone. His eye obsessed you. It 
seemed to light on you like a living thing. It penetrated 
you like a sword and enveloped you like a flame. It 
was as though he seized you in his masterful embrace 
and swept you whither he would. You did not question : 
you obeyed. No man who ever fell under the com- 
pelling hypnotism of that imperial and imperious eye 
will ever forget it. General Booth, too, dwells in the 
memory by the eye. It does not dominate you as 
Gladstone's did ; but it fascinates you by its concentra- 
tion. It searches the thought behind your words. It 
seems, with its beady brilliancy, to be burrowing in the 
dark places of your mind. You feel that your secret, if 
you have one, is being unearthed. You are sapped and 
mined. Your defences are crumbling beneath that 
subtle assault. There is nothing for it but flight or 

You emerge from the interview with a new and re- 

161 II 

1 62 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

vised version of the General. You went in to meet a 
saint and a visionary. You come out having met the 
astutest business man in the city. You feel that if the 
tradesman's son of Nottingham had applied himself to 
winning wealth instead of to winning souls he would 
have been the Rockefeller of England. He would have 
engineered " corners " and " squeezes " without pre- 
cedent. He would have made the world of finance 
tremble at his nod. When he passes by the Stock 
Exchange he must say : " There, but for the grace of 
God, goes William Booth." 

His genius for affairs is visible in the vast fabric of his 
creation. The world has seen nothing like this move- 
ment that in one brief generation has overspread the 
earth with a network of social and regenerative agencies. 
You may question its permanence, you may doubt its 
methods ; but as an achievement, the achievement of 
one man, it is a miracle. 

It astonishes by its absolute independence of motive 
and origin. Loyola's Society of Jesus sprang organically 
out of the Roman Church ; Wesley to the end regarded 
his movement as a movement within the Church. But 
the Salvation Army is unique. It has no relationship 
with any Church or any system. Like Topsy, "it 
growed." It is an empire within the Empire. It is 
a system without a dogma and without an intellectual 
interpretation. It is, in fact, a revival movement con- 
verted into an organism. 

It is a miracle which could only have been performed 
by an autocrat, and General Booth is above everything 
an autocrat. "L'e"tat? C'est moi." His whole career 
is a record of absolute reliance on the leading of his own 
spirit. This quality revealed itself even as a boy of 

General Booth 163 

sixteen, when, left fatherless with the burden of a business 
upon him, he cut himself adrift from the Church of 
England, in which he had been baptised and brought up, 
and took to street preaching. He had been fired by the 
visit to Nottingham of the American revivalist, James 
Caughey, whose straightforward, conversational way of 
putting things, and whose common-sense manner of 
forcing his hearers to a decision, seized his imagination. 
He allied himself with Wesleyanism, gave up business, 
and began his campaign, gathering his crowds in the 
street, wet or fine, taking them to the penitent form 
inside, reaching the poor and the outcast if in no other 
way than by songs and shouting. Wesleyanism was 
shocked by these improprieties. It sought to make 
him respectable. He found himself, in his own phrase, 
"hooked into the ordinary rut and put on to sermon- 
making and preaching." He refused to be respectable. 
He cut Wesleyanism and tried Congregationalism. He 
found it bookish and intellectual and turned to the 
Methodist New Connexion, of which he was ordained 
a minister fifty years ago. But again the fetters 
of restraint galled him. He was put on circuit work 
instead of the revival work he passionately desired. 
The final emancipation came at the Liverpool Confer- 
ence of the Connexion in 1861. Once more, despite 
his appeals, he was allocated to circuit work. " Never ! " 
said William Booth. " Never ! " echoed the voice of his 
wife from the gallery. And so, at thirty-two, without a 
penny of assured income, and with a wife and four young 
children to support, he faced the world, a free man. 

And when his movement began to emerge from Mile 
End Waste, amid the brickbats of the Whitechapel mob 
and the hideous caricature of the Skeleton Army, the 

164 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

same masterful spirit prevailed. He found his ideas 
hindered by the conference, and the conference vanished 
like a Duma at a wave of his hand. Not even his 
family must break his iron law. His son desired to re- 
main in America beyond the term allowed for service 
insisted on remaining. Then his son must go. Do you 
question the future of the Army? The future is pro- 
vided for. I, the General, have named my successor. 
" Who will it be ? No one knows but me. Not even the 
lawyers know. His name is sealed up in an envelope, 
and the lawyers know where to get it. When my death 
is announced the envelope will be opened and the new 
General proclaimed." 

It is magnificent and it is war. There is the key to 
the mystery. It is war. It is still the custom in some 
quarters to ridicule the military aspects of the Army. 
It is inconceivable that the insignia and discipline 
of militarism can have any literal application to the 
spiritual realm. The thing is a travesty. We sing 
" Onward, Christian Soldiers," but that is only a poetical 
simile, and the Christian army sits in comfortable pews 
outside the range of fire. General Booth conceived a 
literal warfare, his battle-ground the streets, his Army 
uniformed and disciplined, challenging the world with 
fierce war-cries, its principle unquestioning obedience. 
It is necessary to remember this when we charge him 
with being a dictator. An army in the field must be 
ruled by a dictator, and his is an army in the field. 
" They call me a Pope sometimes," he says. " I reply it 
is the only way. Twenty people are banded together, 
and nineteen are for taking things easily, and if you 
leave them to themselves they will take the easy path. 
But if you say ' Go ; that's the path,' they will go. My 

General Booth 165 

people now want and wait to be commanded." His 
mistake is in supposing that a dictatorship can be 
bequeathed. Cromwell made the experiment and the 
Commonwealth vanished. A system which derives all 
its vitality from a personality may fade when that 
personality is withdrawn. For the Salvation Army 
is not a Church or a philosophy or a creed ; it is an 

An emotion ! You look in that astute eye, so keen, 
so matter-of-fact, so remote from the visionary gleam, 
and ask for the key of the riddle. And the truth dawns 
on you that there is a philosophy behind the emotion. 
When the artful politician sets out on an adventure he 
appeals to the emotion of patriotism or to the emotion 
of hate of the foreigner and fear of the unknown. So 
General Booth has a practical purpose behind the 
spiritual emotion. He is, in a word, a politician. He 
is a social reformer working through the medium of 
spiritual exaltation. Wesley saw only the Celestial City, 
and he called on men to flee from the City of Destruction. 
General Booth points to the Celestial City, and he uses 
the power generated by the vision to drain the City of 
Destruction and make it habitable. He is as designedly 
political as any Socialist, for it is the redemption of 
Society in the material as well as the spiritual sense that 
is his aim. But politics in the party meaning are for- 
bidden to his followers as absolutely as alcohol. Change 
the laws by all means, he says to the politician, but I 
am working to change the heart. " We are tunnelling 
from opposite sides of the hill. Perhaps we shall meet 
in the middle." 

He has the enthusiasm of humanity. He loves man- 
kind in the mass after the fashion of the philanthropist. 

1 66 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

The average man is touched by the incidental and 
particular. His pity is casual and fleeting. His heart 
goes out at the moving tale ; he feels for the sorrow he 
sees. But he is cold to misery in the mass, and generally 
shares the conviction of the Northern farmer that " the 
poor in a loomp is bad." The philanthropist, on the 
other hand, is often cold to the particular, but he has 
that imaginative sympathy that bleeds for the misery of 
a world. His pity is not casual ; it is a frame of mind. 
His eyes look out over wasted lands ; his ears ring with 
lamentation and an ancient tale of wrong. He is not so 
much indifferent to the ordinary interests of life as un- 
conscious of them. General Booth's detachment from 
the world is as complete as if he were an anchorite 
of the desert. He has a single purpose. " The one 
prudence in life," says Emerson, "is concentration; the 
one evil, dissipation." General Booth has the concentra- 
tion of the fanatic the fanatic governed by the business 
mind. He carries no impedimenta. Politics are a 
closed book to him ; the quarrels of creeds are unheard ; 
literature unknown ; his knowledge of golf is confined 
as Bagehot said of the Eton boy's knowledge of Greek 
to a suspicion that there is such a game. 

Yet he is the most familiar figure in all the world. 
He has travelled further and spoken to more diverse 
peoples than any man in any time to Hindoos by the 
sacred Ganges, to Japanese by the sacred mountain, 
in Germany often, in America and Australia and New 
Zealand. He flashes from Land's End to John o' 
Groat's in a motor-car, whips across to Berlin, is heard 
of in South Africa. Yet all the time he seems to be in 
the bare room in Queen Victoria Street, talking eagerly 
as he walks about and stopping at intervals to take you 

General Booth 167 

by the lapel of the coat to emphasise a point. All this 
activity bespeaks the ascetic. " Any amount of work 
can be performed by careful feeders," says Meredith ; 
" it is the stomach that kills the Englishman." General 
Booth is careful of his stomach. He lives the life of a 
Spartan. His income has never exceeded that of a 
curate, for it is wholly derived from a fund of 5000 
invested for him years ago by an admirer a fund which 
returns to the benefactor after the General's death. From 
the Army he draws nothing beyond travelling expenses. 

His indifference to the judgments of the world has 
in it a touch of genius. It is not easy to be vulgar. 
Religion, like society, suffers from the creeping paralysis 
of respectability. The General set himself to shock the 
world by vulgarity, and he rejoiced in the storm he 
created. He had nothing to do with the world of 
proprieties and " good form." His task was to reclaim 
the Abyss, where the methods of organised Christianity 
were futile. " My work is to make war on the hosts that 
keep the underworld submerged, and you cannot have 
war without noise. We'll go on singing and marching 
with drums beating and cornets playing all the time." 
It is the instinct of the business man the instinct of 
advertisement applied to unselfish ends. He is the 
showman of religion. " I would stand on my head on 
the top of St Paul's cross if I thought it would bring 
men to salvation." 

Intellectualism has no place in his life. Theology he 
leaves to the schools and the churches, and " Modern- 
ism " is a word that has no meaning for him. Meta- 
physics are not a path to the masses, and his answer 
to the " New Theology " would be " Hallelujah ! " His 
creed is like Holmes's. " I have a creed," said Holmes. 

1 68 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

" It is summed up in the first two words of the Pater- 
noster. And when I say them I mean them." So with 
the General. " The religion of the Army is summed up 
in the two great Commandments, ' Thou shalt love the 
Lord thy God with all thy heart,' and ' Thou shalt love 
thy neighbour as thyself.' " He applies no other formula. 
The dogmas will take care of themselves. " A man 
tells us he is a Catholic. We ask, ' Are you a good 
Catholic ? Are you true to the principles of your faith ? ' 
And so with the Protestant." His banner is as broad as 
the heavens. 

His methods are his own, and he will bend them to 
no man. He never argues : he simply goes on as if he 
did not hear. " I shall not reply to Dr Dowie. I leave 
my work to speak for me. We must both answer to the 
Great Judge of all." He is charged with sweating, with 
not paying the trade union rate of wages. What are 
trade unions to me or I to trade unions ? he seems to say. 
I am saving the lost ; I am setting their foot on the 
ladder ; stand aside. His finances have been constantly 
challenged, but he will not disclose them. Yet his 
personal probity has never been impugned, and when in 
1892 the agitation came to a head and a committee 
consisting of Sir Henry James, Lord Onslow, Mr Long 
and others was appointed to investigate the facts, it 
found that no member of his family had ever derived 
any benefit from the money raised for his " Darkest 
England" scheme, that the administration had been 
" business-like, economical, and prudent," and that the 
accounts " had been kept in a proper and clear manner." 
He is charged with indifference to the source of his 
money. " I was once reproached with having accepted 
a donation of 100 from a well-known Marquis. ' It is 

General Booth 169 

tainted money,' they said. What if it was? Give us 
the money, I say ; we will wash it clean with the tears 
of the fatherless and lay it on the altar of humanity." 

He has the unconquerable cheerfulness of the man 
who lives for a cause and has no anchorage in things or 
possessions. " My wife is in Heaven and I have no 
home, merely a place where I keep some furniture," he 
says ; but no man I ever met is less weary. He has 
the dauntless spirit of youth. " How old do they say I 
am ? Seventy-nine ? What nonsense ! I am not old. 
I am seventy-nine years young. I have heaps of time 
yet to go around fishing fishing for souls in the same 
old way with the same old net." He is like an idea, an 
enthusiasm, that lives on independent of the flesh. The 
flame of the spirit flares higher as the candle gutters to 
the end. He will go out with a burst of " Hallelujahs " 
and a roll of drums. 


I WAS walking one evening along the Embankment 
when I overtook John Burns. The night was cold, but 
he wore neither overcoat nor gloves, for he scorns both 
as the trappings of effeminate luxury. He carried under 
his arm a huge bound volume of the Phalanx, a Labour 
journal of long ago, which he had just picked up at a 
bookstall. He plunged at once into a stream of that 
buoyant, confident talk which is so characteristic of 
the man. 

" Here," he says, and his hand seizes me like a vice, 
bringing me up short before a tablet of the late Queen, 
let into the fence before the Temple. " Look at it. 
Been up five years. Not a scratch on it. I tell you 
there's not a country in Europe where there is a higher 
standard of public conduct than here." 

A young couple of the working class pass us arm-in- 
arm. His iron grasp is once more on me, and I am 
swung round to take note of them. "That's not the 
sort of couple the people who vilify the working classes 
picture. Believe me, sir, the courting of the working 
classes is as pure and chivalrous as anything I know. 
You take it from me the working classes are morally 
as sound as a bell." 

A flower girl stops us, and with whispering humble- 
ness proffers chrysanthemums. " Well, my lass, it's a 

Photo fry Russell & 1 Sons 

To face p. 170 


John Burns 171 

cold night for your job." He puts money in her hand, 
but waves aside the blooms. " No, no, my girl, keep 
them. Do I look like a man that wants flowers ? " 

" Sir," he says, in reply to some remark, " I go my 
own way. I trust to my own eyes and ears. When 
Ibsen said, ' The strongest man is he who stands alone,' 
he had J. B. in his eye." And he watches my merri- 
ment with quizzical good humour. 

At Waterloo Bridge that terrible hand grips me again. 
He opens a door in the hoarding, commandeers a fore- 
man, and crashes his way over masses of masonry and 
debris through the tramway tunnel being driven through 
to the Strand, his big voice booming out questions and 
comments all the time. 

Out on the Embankment again, he pulls up before a 
man, whether workman or loafer it is difficult to say. 
" Well, Higgins, what are you up to now ? " And as 
Higgins proceeds with his apologia I escape. 

There is the man, boisterous, confident, gaily aggres- 
sive, honest as the day, full of the egotism of the 
child, with the child's delighted interest in the passing 
show of things Cabinet Minister and working man 
proud of his present, proud of his past, most proud 
of all that he has "done time" in one of his Majesty's 

He stands four square to all the winds that blow, 
solid as a pedestal of granite, short and mighty of limb, 
like Hal o' th' Wynd, his great eyes flashing scorn and 
challenge from under the terrific eyebrows, his nostrils 
swelling with defiance, his voice bursting in upon the 
tranquillities like a foghorn, thick and hoarse from 
thundering in the open air, his grey hair and beard 
belying the enormous vitality of mind and muscle. A 

172 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

man indeed, virile and vehement, dogmatic as a time- 
table, with an argument as heavy as his fist "the 
powerful, natural man " of Whitman's ideal. Plain 
living and high thinking his maxim no alcohol, no 
tobacco, no rugs and mufflers, no weak concessions to 
the flesh; but cold water and plenty of it within and 
without, early rising and hard walking, a game of 
cricket, a swim in the bath, and then out sword and 
have at you ! A glorious swashbuckler of romance. 

His life an ebullient joy. There is not a page in it 
that he slurs over. There is not an hour when he has 
not found it good to be alive. His boundless exuber- 
ance fills you like a gale at sea. His optimism seems to 
fill the whole world with the singing of birds and the 
laughter of children. There never was such a world. 
There never was such a country as this England of ours. 
There never was such a city as this glorious London. 
Do you doubt it ? Do you talk of your Germany and 
your France? Sir, do you know that the average 
number of inhabitants of a house in London is eight 
and in Berlin eighty ; that the mortality in London is 
15, and in Berlin 17; that the average rent per room 
in London is so and so, and in Berlin so and so ; that 
in fact, that an avalanche of statistics has suddenly 
descended on you, reducing you to abject and humiliated 
silence. Never was there such a man for statistics. He 
is a Blue Book in breeches. My brain reels at the 
thought of a conversation between him and Mr Chiozza 
Money, each bringing up battalions of figures to crush 
the other, millions of figures, figures on horseback and 
figures on foot a perfect Armageddon of averages and 
tables and percentages. Oliver Wendell Holmes says 
that some men lead facts about with them like bulldogs, 

John Burns 173 

and let them loose upon you at the least provocation. 
John Burns' facts are bulldogs that leap at your throat 
and shake the life out of you. 

And the marvel is that with all this welter of facts his 
thinking is so clear and his judgment so sound. The 
reason is that he knows life at first hand. And by life 
I mean the life of the common people to whom he 
belongs and whom he genuinely loves. He has worked 
with them in the engine-room at sea and ashore; he has 
thundered to them on Tower Hill, in Hyde Park, and 
Trafalgar Square. He has lived among them, and 
never deserted them. He is easy in any company, but 
most at ease with them. He knows the London of the 
people as perhaps no other man knows it. He has 
spent, and still spends, months in tramping its streets, 
talking to the people, talking to the policemen, dipping 
into sunless alleys, peering into back yards. This vast 
metropolis is like an open book to him. It is as though 
he could not only name the streets, but could give you 
the story of the people in the houses, and the contents 
of the kitchen pot. 

This insatiable thirst pursues him abroad. He goes 
to Germany, sees its sewers and its sanctuaries, marches 
with its army, talks with the cabmen in the street, comes 
back laden with invisible imports of precious facts 
more bulldogs for the unwary. 

He is probably the best known man in the country 
certainly the best known man in London, for which he 
has done magnificent service as the embodiment and 
the driving force of the Progressive movement. Popular 
enthusiasm has dowered him with the properties of his 
namesake. Someone was declaiming at a meeting that 
" A man's a man for a' that," adding, " as Burns says," 

174 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

whereat the audience rose with cheers for " good old 
John." And he dominates his enemies as much as his 
friends. In a 'bus during the last L.C.C. election two 
Moderates were discussing the " Wastrels." " Look at 
the Poor Law," said one. " Costs four millions a year. 
Nice pickings there." " Yes," said the other. " I wonder 
what John Burns' share is." " One million sterling, sir," 
thundered a voice from the other end, and the menacing 
eye of John Burns gleamed over the paper he had been 
reading unseen. Living ever in the crowd, ready ever 
to cross swords with whomsoever will, his life is full of 
comedy and episode. Adventure dogs him as it did the 
knights of old. He is always snatching children from 
the imminent deadly hoof, or plunging into the river, or 
stopping runaway horses, or carrying " accidents " to the 
hospital. Members never fall ill in the House except 
when John Burns is there to carry them out, and at 
fires he is sublime. His voice frightens the flames into 
miserable surrender. 

His honesty is above suspicion. Money cannot buy 
him, threats cannot coerce him. For eighteen years he 
was the mainstay of the government of London, a 
working engineer, living upon his grant of 200 from 
his Society, and never a breath of suspicion against his 
honour. No "job" could abide his wrath. A Batter- 
sea official told me that one was contemplated in his 
department of the borough. He went to Burns and 
told him. In five minutes he was away on his bicycle 
like the wind. By noon he had smashed the intrigue. 
Such passion for the public interest is magnificent. 
Think of it beside the appalling municipal corruption 
of America. Think what such an example means to 
us, not only in cash, but in the wholesome ideals of 

John Burns 175 

citizenship. See, too, how he is cleansing the Augean 
stables of Poor Law administration. His claims 
as a legislator on the grand scale yet remain to be 
proved ; but as an administrator he is worth millions 
to us. 

Like Sir Anthony Absolute, no one is more easily 
led when he has his own way. You cannot argue 
with him any more than you can argue with a sledge- 
hammer. He has no subtleties either of thought or 
of conduct. He is plain as a pike-staff. What is in 
his mind must out, and if he doesn't understand a thing 
he damns it. He has no secrets and no cunning, and 
when he is attacked he hits back with his fist. His 
oratory has never lost the fortissimo of his Trafalgar 
Square days, but he loves the finery of words words 
of "wondrous length and thundering sound," words in 
full-bottomed wigs and court dress. He would have 
felt that Johnson was strangely feeble when he said that 
something " had not wit enough to keep it sweet," but he 
would have forgiven the great man when he corrected 
himself and said, " It has not vitality enough to pre- 
serve it from putrefaction." That is the sort of verbal 
thunderbolt Mr Burns hurls at you when he has time to 
think. Yet, like Johnson, his first impulse is to express 
himself in brief, emphatic Saxon and homely imagery, of 
which he has an abundance. " Sir," speaking of two 
young politicians of cold exterior " Sir, the only differ- 
ence between them is that one is strawberry and the 
other vanilla they're both ices." And of an acrid 
person who is reported to be suffering from stomach 
trouble " What can you expect of a man who has drunk 
nothing but vinegar for forty years ? " But when he has, 
so to speak, time to dress, he is a verbal aristocrat. His 

176 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

adjectives march in triplets, and his sentiments in anti- 
thesis, as though he belonged to the eighteenth century 
instead of the twentieth. He is more proud of his library 
of six thousand books than of his place in the Cabinet, 
and would rather be caught by the photographer while 
reading a book on the pavement outside a second- 
hand bookshop in Charing Cross Road than when 
coming from a levee in Court costume. Not that he 
has any objection to velvet coats, knee breeches, 
and shoe buckles. Privately, I think, he knows they 
suit him as well as the bowler hat and the reefer 
jacket that he wears on all other occasions as the sign 
of democracy. 

His emotions are primal and are exhibited with 
entire candour. He has strong hates and strong affec- 
tions, and expresses both with the frankness of a primi- 
tive nature. A noble sentiment well expressed delights 
him as a brightly coloured picture delights a child, and 
the sergeant who, when a gun carriage had overturned 
in some manoeuvres on Salisbury Plain and Mr Burns 
had helped to extricate the men, said, in reply to his 
inquiry as to whether anyone was hurt, " The men of 
the Royal Artillery are sometimes killed, but never 
hurt," captured his heart for ever. 

It is not necessary, even if it were possible, to allocate 
the blame for the bitterness that has sprung up between 
him and the Labour party. At the root, I think, in 
spite of Tower Hill and Trafalgar Square, he was 
always something of an Individualist and a bureaucrat. 
But whatever the merits of the quarrel, he has certainly 
given knocks as hard as those he received. And at 
least no reminder of the past ever puts him to silence 
or to the blush. When someone at a meeting recalled 

John Burns 177 

his saying of other days, that no man was worth more 
than $oo a year, and contrasted that saying with his 
present salary, he answered with stentorian good 
humour, " Sir, I am a trade unionist. The trade union 
wage for Cabinet Ministers is 2000 a year. Would 
you have me a blackleg?" 

He has his foibles. He is himself the most interesting 
man he knows. He sees himself colossal, a figure touch- 
ing the skies. He walks round himself, as it were, and 
he is filled with admiration at the spectacle. Wonderful ! 
What a man ! It is the egotism of the child, so frank, 
so irresistible, so essentially void of offence, so ready 
to laugh at itself. There is a story ben trovato, of 
course that when Sir H. Campbell-Bannerman offered 
him a seat in the Cabinet he bowed himself out with 
the remark, " Well, Sir Henry, this is the most popular 
thing you have done." It is a story good enough to 
be true. It sums up so admirably the amiable weakness 
of this robust man. 

Withal, what an asset he is to our national life ! 
What a breeze he brings with him, what wholesome 
fresh air, what unconquerable buoyancy ! I am told 
that he is less popular in Battersea than he was. Then 
so much the worse for Battersea. If it has ceased 
to follow him, it has ceased to follow an honest man 
and a great citizen. He has fallen away from grace 
in the eyes of the Labour Party, who find the accents 
of the Treasury Bench different from those of Tower 
Hill. So they are ; so they must be. But, in spite of 
a certain stiffening, as it were, of the muscles of the 
mind, his heart beats true as ever to his first and 
only love the common people. He chastises them ; 

but he loves them, not with the aloofness of a superior 


178 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

person, but with the love of a comrade, who offers 
them a shining example. If he will only check the 
tendency to intellectual hardening which some of us 
observe, guard against the subtle advances of the official 
spirit, suspect the flatterer, and occasionally listen to old 
friends who will not flatter, he has a long career of service 
to the people before him. 

Tojace p. 179 



I GOT a telegram one morning stating that a libel action 
in which I was concerned was down for hearing that 
day. When I entered the Law Courts half an hour 
later, it was already in progress. I had expected to find 
the air cold and inimical. Instead, I found the court 
beaming with good humour. Everyone seemed cheerful. 
His lordship leaned back in his chair with an air of 
comfortable calm ; the jury leaned forward with various 
shades of amused interest upon their faces ; barristers 
and spectators seemed to be following a pleasant 
comedy. I took a seat and soon shared the prevailing 
spirit. My fears vanished in this easy, good-humoured 
atmosphere. This was not the thunderstorm which I 
had anticipated with black forebodings. It was a 
pleasant, breezy day. 

The meaning of it was soon apparent. Mr Rufus 
Isaacs was weaving his magic incantations. His geni- 
ality was infectious. You felt that everyone was a good 
fellow. His lordship look what an amiable, cheerful 
old gentleman he was ! He wouldn't harm a worm. 
And the jury what excellent fellows they were ! And 
the plaintiff, an honest, nice man, labouring under a 
little misapprehension. And the defendants, equally 
honourable, equally nice, if you only knew them. And 
his learned friend why, he was the best fellow of all ! 

180 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

He exchanged " nods and becks and wreathed smiles " 
with the judge; he talked to the jury as though he had 
never met twelve such luminous-minded men before ; he 
permitted his learned friend to trip him up on the mis- 
pronunciation of a name, thanked him gaily for his 
correction, repeated the offence, and laughingly rebuked 
his own forgetfulness. It was all done with a lightness 
of touch, a freshness and gaiety that were irresistible. 

Vainly did his learned friend try to stem the insidious 
tide. Vainly did he lash the poor defendants villains 
of the deepest dye vainly grow red and indignant, 
calling for heavy yes, gentlemen of the jury exemplary 
damages. His fierce denunciation fell on cold ears, his 
demand for revenge sounded harsh and discordant in 
this kindly world. The judge frowned disapproval at 
the bitter note, and the jury gave him a farthing 
damages ! And so home, very merry, as good Samuel 
Pepys would say. 

" But," I said to Mr Isaacs afterwards, " why did you 
alter your line of defence ? You never touched on our 
real case." 

" My dear sir, his lordship is a plain man who loves a 
plain issue. Your real case was complex, and would 
have tired him and irritated him. He would have said : 
' Gentlemen of the jury, you have heard the evidence. 
If you think it is a libel you will find for the plaintiff; 
if you have any doubts you will find for the defendants. 
Gentlemen, consider your verdict.' Or words to that 
effect. And down they would have come on you, for 
there was only one man in that box you could count 

I saw in this scene at the Law Courts something of 
the secret of the most brilliant career of the time at the 

Rufus Isaacs, K.C. 181 

bar. Sir Charles Russell won his triumphs by passionate 
intensity and autocratic compulsion. His eye flashed 
fire and his tongue was an edged sword. He was like a 
torrent in spate, and the jury were swept along, help- 
less and unresisting, upon the swirling current. He 
dominated men by his impetuous wrath, by the energy 
of his mind and his manner. As he tapped his snuff- 
box and eyed you terribly over the pince-nez that 
hung low upon the nose, you felt that the storm was 
gathering beneath those pent brows, and waited for 
the lightning that came with the flash of the stretched 
forefinger. To cross his path seemed a misdemeanour. 
To be opposed to him was, ipso facto, to be in the 
wrong. He won by sheer passion. He gained the 
battle by the sword. 

Mr Isaacs wins by wooing. It was said of Cobden 
that he was the only man who ever turned votes in the 
House of Commons. He did it, not by rhetoric, but by 
the sweet reasonableness of his persuasive talk. Mr 
Isaacs has the same ingratiating faculty. He is so 
pleasant and amiable that it is a pain to disagree with 
him ; so frank that you are sure that he is telling you 
all about it ; so sensible that you feel he must be right. 
He does not browbeat the witness, or hector the judge, 
or dictate to the jury. He pervades the court with the 
sense of polite comedy. He makes everybody feel at 
ease, except his learned friend, who sees his case vanish- 
ing in wreathed smiles and urbane compliment. It is 
only when he leaves the box that the witness sees how 
he has been caught in the folds of that insinuating net. 
" I dreamed about you last night, Mr Isaacs," said a 
surgeon returning to the box. "You have been a 
nightmare to me. I have hardly slept since you let me 

1 82 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

out of the box on Friday. I dreamed you had examined 
me and I seemed to have nothing on except bones." 

He has the intellectual suppleness of the East, and 
something of the mystery of his race. The Jewish mind 
at its best has an orbit outside the Western range, at 
its worst a depth below our lowest deep ; the Jewish 
temperament is for us inscrutable. We are at home 
with all other minds, whether they be clothed in black 
skins or white, but the Jew, like the Japanese, is eternally 
alien to us. He moves in other spheres ; he is motived 
by springs to which we have no access. The soul of 
Spinoza, as he bends over his humble task of glass- 
cutting at The Hague, " sails beyond the paths of all 
the Western stars." Lasker, sitting over the chessboard, 
seems to dwell in the unexplored vastness outside our 
intellectual range. Shakespeare we grasp ; but Isaiah 
has a vision that is not ours. Gladstone we understand, 
but who has fathomed the dark mystery that was called 
Disraeli ? 

Slaves in eternal Egypts, baking their strawless bricks, 
At ease in successive Zions, prating their politics 

they are of every nation and of none. It is the greatest 
of living Jews who has best stated the strange duality of 
Israel, the splendour and squalor of his race. But even 
he has not wholly unveiled to us the heart of its 

The English mind is direct, obvious, emphatic. Its 
attack is frontal. It marches up to the enemies' bat- 
teries with bull-dog courage and breaks the line or is 
broken in the attempt. You may take Mr Gill as the 
legal type of the English mind. He goes for the witness 
with great, smashing blows. He knocks the breath out 
of his body if he can and then turns, hot and perspir- 

Rufus Isaacs, K.C. 183 

ing, to receive his reward from the jury. Mr Isaacs is 
all subtlety and insinuation. You cannot come to hand- 
grips with him. He is intangible. A duel between him 
and Mr Gill is one of the most delightful spectacles I 
know. It is a duel between quarterstaff and rapier 
all the weight on one side, all the agility on the other. 
It is like those immortal combats at the " Mermaid " 
between Ben Jonson, massive and slow as a Spanish 
galleon, and Shakespeare, swift and elusive as an English 
frigate. Down comes the quarterstaff with an immense 
sweep and there is Mr Isaacs, leaning lightly upon his 
sword, or gently pricking the defenceless flank of his 
opponent, his pleasant face more aggravatingly pleasant 
than ever. 

It is all a gay comedy. His spirit is still the spirit of 
the boy who ran away to sea and served before the mast 
on the Blair Athol, He found that stowing the main 
skysail and cleaning the brass-work were not such fun 
as they seemed in fancy, and he decamped at Rio de 
Janeiro. But he was laid by the heels, and had to finish 
the voyage round by Calcutta. Two years in Magde- 
burg as the German agent of his father's business satis- 
fied him that superintending shipments was little better 
than stowing the main skysail of the Blair Athol, and he 
turned up on the Stock Exchange, where, I believe, he 
lost money, and won fame with the gloves. Then, rich 
in worldly wisdom, he went to the Temple, where 
worldly wisdom is more valuable even than law, and 
stepped breezily out of the chambers of Mr Lawson 
Walton into a practice that led to 20,000 a year, a 
dwelling in the paradise of Park Lane, and any office 
that he may choose to aim at. 

He probably knows more of human nature in its 

184 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

crude state than any man of his time. He has seen it 
where it is most naked and unashamed in ships at sea, in 
trade, on the Stock Exchange, and in the Temple, where 
its most rapacious and unlovely aspects are unveiled. 
And it is not surprising that one finds in him a touch of 
good-humoured cynicism, mixed with the breezy care- 
lessness of his demeanour. Most lawyers have a touch 
of cynicism. Diogenes might find an honest man in 
the Temple : he certainly would not find an idealist. 
The law is death to dreams. 

Perhaps it is this want of the atmosphere of dreams 
that makes the lawyer generally so arid a figure in 
politics. The lawyer who succeeds in politics on a 
grand scale is rare, and, with few exceptions, he suc- 
ceeds not because, but in spite of the lawyer qualities. 
Mr Asquith is the exception to the rule. Men never 
thought of Harcourt as a lawyer. Russell's passion for 
Ireland obliterated the lawyer, and the only occasion on 
which Sir John Rigby touched the heart of the House 
was when a pipe fell from his pocket and he was seen to 
be, after all, a man and a brother. 

Mr Isaacs is not an arid figure in the House. His 
personality is too piquant, his outlook too bright and 
human. But he is not a great Parliamentary figure. 
The impression he creates is that of a light skirmisher 
on the fringe of the battle. There is no compelling con- 
viction, no burning zeal that carries him passionately 
into the heart of the conflict. Contrast him for a 
moment with Sir William Robson. I have seen them 
both in Court, in cases in which I was involved, and let 
me put it modestly I prefer Mr Isaacs. But in the 
House how different their values ! Mr Isaacs is the 
lightest of weights, Sir William Robson one of the most 

Rufus Isaacs, K.C. 185 

commanding of contemporary political minds. It is not 
perhaps, in this case, the difference between the lawyer 
who is primarily a lawyer and the lawyer who is pri- 
marily a layman. It is the difference between the English 
mind and the Jewish mind in relation to British politics. 
The Jewish mind is essentially outside our politics, 
despite the sorceries of Disraeli. The Jew is a citizen of 
the world. He has no patriotism, for he has all patriot- 
isms. The only Jew I can recall who had the root of 
the matter in him, who really thought about politics 
as an Englishman thinks, was Goschen. And no one 
thought of him as a Jew. 

When Mr Isaacs' name was canvassed in connection 
with the Solicitor-Generalship, a barrister said to me : 
" There is too much work for one man, and Mr Isaacs is 
the only man I know equal to the task. His energy and 
power of work are incredible. He is in bed at eleven 
and he is up at four when the Courts are sitting. Four 
hours he is at his briefs, and then, fresh as a lark, he is 
at the Courts, winding up with an afternoon and even- 
ing at the House." He carries his work as lightly as he 
carries his triumphs. He is wholly unspoiled by success, 
a pleasant, debonair figure, easy in all company, telling 
a bright story with droll enjoyment, the brilliant black 
eye of his race sparkling with fun, the mobile mouth 
working with the genial current of his thought. Where- 
ever his brilliant path may lead him, whether to the 
Woolsack or to the seat of the Master of the Rolls, 
whose most famous ornament, Jessel, was, like himself, a 
Jew, it will lead him to no place he is not fitted to adorn. 


I WAS sitting in my room one day in March last year 
when Miss Clementina Black and Madame Stepniak 
called on me with a young man dressed in the garb of 
a workman. He was very fair, and his light blue eyes 
had that look of childlike simplicity and frankness that 
goes straight to the heart. It was a look that seemed 
to leave nothing to be told. A decent, sober, industrious 
young artisan, you would have said, and passed on. 
But he was indeed the most significant figure I have 
ever met : when I think of Russia I see it through those 
mild blue eyes. 

He was a Lithuanian workman, Peter Pridrikson his 
name. He had been a member of a political organisa- 
tion and had been arrested with others in the midst of 
the Riga horrors, had been flogged and tortured, and 
finally sentenced to be shot. He was detained for the 
night in a village near Riga, in a wooden shanty, for the 
prisons were so full that accommodation had to be ex- 
temporised. In the darkness he was taken outside by 
the gaolers to the lavatory. The irons were on his leg 
and the gaolers carried rifles. Escape seemed impossible. 
But to-morrow he was to die. When to-morrow means 
death, men do not shrink from the risk of a rifle shot. 
The drowning man snatched at the last straw of life. 
In the lavatory he managed with a stone to loosen the nut 

1 86 

To face p. i? 


The Tsar 187 

of one of the irons. Then, bursting through the door, 
he made one wild rush for liberty. The gaolers fired, 
but the night was dark and they missed their aim. And 
the time they gave to firing should have been given to 
pursuit, for the forest was close at hand. Perhaps, too, 
they had mercy ; felt, like Hubert, some touch of pity 
for those trustful, appealing eyes. However that may 
be, the youth, dragging his irons with him, reached the 
cover of the woods and safety. He freed himself from 
the irons, wandered for two days and nights in the 
forest, then, hidden in a hay cart by a friendly driver, 
reached the home of a friend, where he remained in 
hiding for three weeks before escaping across the 
frontier, and here he was in Bouverie Street telling his 
thrilling story quietly and simply through the mouth of 
Madame Stepniak. 

His back still bore the cruel marks of the lash, and he 
unlaced his boots and showed me his toe-nails broken 
in the torture. What was he going to do? He was 
going to Switzerland to join other refugees for a short 

" And then ? " 

"Then I am going back." 

" Back? But you are sentenced to death." 

" I must take my chance." 

He spoke with the calmness of that fatalism that 
is so deeply rooted in the Russian character. I have 
never seen him since ; but three months ago I received 
a letter from Madame Stepniak. " You remember," she 
said, " the young Lithuanian I brought to see you some 
time ago. I have just heard of his death. He returned 
to Russia, was recaptured, and shot." 

Multiply that pathetic figure by thousands and tens of 

1 88 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

thousands, see in it the symbol of a system controlling 
a hundred and twenty million lives, and you have the 
Russia of the Tsar. What of the Tsar ? 

Mr Heath, the English tutor of the Tsar, relates that 
one day he and his pupil were reading together The 
Lady of the Lake. They came to that spirited 
description of the scene in Stirling when the castle 
gates were flung wide open and King James rode out 
amid the shouts of the populace, " Long live the 
Commons' King, King James ! " " The Commons' 
King," exclaimed the boy, with sparkling eyes, "that 
is what I should like to be." The emotion was sincere. 
For Nicholas II. is one of those unhappy figures in 
whom emotion is divorced from conduct, an idealist 
faithless to his ideals, a visionary doomed to violate his 
visions. He has a feminine shrinking from war and 
plunges his country into the bloodiest war in history. 
He looks towards England and yearns for its free air 
and its free institutions, its Commons' King and its 
happy people, and every day throughout his wide 
realm the hangman's noose is round the politician's 
neck and the gaoler's key is turned upon the cry of 

What is the mystery behind this perplexing person- 
ality that seems at once so humane and so merciless, 
that expresses itself now in a Peace Rescript, now in 
approval of the infamous doings of the Black Hundreds, 
that is compact of the shyness of a girl and the intense 
fanatical spirit of Philip II., that would be " a Commons' 
King " and yet a despot ? There is no need to question 
the sincerity of his moods on the ground that they are 
mutually destructive. Even the best of men are con- 
scious of that duality which Leighton referred to in one 

The Tsar 189 

of his letters to his sister, in which he said," for, together 
with, and, as it were, behind, so much pleasurable emotion, 
there is always that other strange second man in me, 
calm, observant, critical, unmoved, blase, odious." There 
is that other self, too, in the Tsar, fanatical, terrible 
and, alas, triumphant. Perhaps the wonder is that, with 
such an ancestry and such a tutelage, there should be 
any generous human emotion at all. For the history of 
his house is like a nightmare of blood. His father was 
as superstitious as a mediaeval warrior. He would cross 
himself and even fall on his knees in prayer if a cloud 
obscured the sun while he was looking through the 
window, and he died in the arms of that miracle-monger, 
Father John of Cronstadt. His grandfather was assas- 
sinated in the public street ; his great-grandfather is sup- 
posed to have committed suicide under the pressure 
of the disasters in the Crimea ; the Emperor Paul was 
murdered in 1801 ; and the vices of Paul's mother, 
Catherine II., place her among the greatest criminals 
in Royal history. Her husband was " removed." Ivan 
VI. was buried in a dungeon for twenty-four years and 
then murdered. But why pursue the story? It is 
stained with blood right back to that pagan author of 
the Romanoffs, the chieftain Kobyla, who was driven 
from Lithuania into Russia in the fourteenth century for 
refusing to adopt Christianity. The contemplation of 
such a family history would shadow any life. It ought 
also to have taught the lesson of the futility of 

It did, in fact, teach it, as we see in that emotion of 
the boy stirred by the cry of the " Commons' King." 
But it was the emotion of a mind ungoverned by 
character and subject to fanatical obsession. Had his 

190 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

impressionable temperament been moulded by generous 
influences the course of Russian history would have 
been happier ; but he fell at the beginning under the 
mediaeval spirit of Pobedonostseff, the Procurator of the 
Holy Synod, the Torquemada of modern times, who 
instilled into him his doctrines of Oriental despotism, 
chilled by the frost of his bloodless philosophy. Under 
the baleful guidance of Pobedonostseff and Prince 
Meshkershtsky, he became imbued, as the writer of an 
article in the Quarterly Review pointed out long 
before his character was realised, with the conviction 
that he was God's lieutenant, the earthly counterpart 
of his Divine Master. That obsession, working on a 
mind naturally occult and timorous, has driven, as it 
were, the disease of despotism inward, withering the 
feeble intimations of a more humane emotion, isolating 
him from his people, and converting every expression 
of popular thought into revolt against the divine will 
embodied in his own person. 

This perverted intensity is the natural product of a 
superstitious mind in a febrile body. For he has none 
of the animalism and physical ebullience of his race. 
His tastes are domestic and simple. He is devoted to 
his wife and his children, the last refuge of his solitary 
life, and loves to sit and read to the Empress from the 
English authors while she is engaged in her embroidery 
in the evening. He has a passion for cycling ; but for 
sport he has neither the taste nor the nerve. In the 
language of the old keeper who was in attendance on 
him when he was the guest of Lord Lonsdale in West- 
morland, the Tsar " did not know enough to hold a gun 
straight nor to hit a bird." His lack of physical daring 
was exhibited in the attack made on him by an assassin 

The Tsar 191 

when, as the Tsarevitch, he was touring in Japan with the 
Crown Prince of Greece. The latter wrote to his father 
a letter describing the incident, and in it used the phrase, 
" Then Nickie ran." By some indiscretion that phrase 
leaked out, and all Russian society went about shrugging 
its shoulders and murmuring, " Then Nickie ran." 

Perhaps it was this timidity that was the cause of the 
most fatal act in his career. No monarch in history was 
ever faced with a more splendid occasion than that which 
offered itself to Nicholas on the 22nd of January 1905. 
The war was ending in disaster, the country was in 
revolt against its own misery and wrong and against 
the corruption and incompetence of the bureaucracy. 
But it still had a remnant of faith in the Little Father. 
It would go to him at his Palace with a petition to him 
to make its cause his own against the tyranny that 
oppressed it. The people gathered in tens of thousands 
before the Palace. It was the moment for a hero. It 
was the moment to win the love of a people or to lose it 
for ever. And Nicholas was not there ! He had fled 
overnight to Tsarskoe Selo, and left the Duke Vladimir 
with his Cossacks to greet his subjects with sword and 
musket. The streets ran with blood. More people fell 
that day than in any battle of the Boer War. And 
Nicholas fell for ever with them. 

The lack of physical courage is companioned by the 
infirmity of will, illustrated by the story of a conversation 
between the Tsar and the Empress which delighted 
Russia last year, and which ran as follows : 

The Empress : My dear Nicholas, you must not always agree 
with everybody. Now, this morning M. Stolypin made a report, 
and after he had finished you said, " M. Stolypin, you are quite 
right. I quite agree with you." Five minutes later Durnovo came . 
What he told you was absolutely opposed to what Stolypin had said, 

192 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

but again you remarked, "My dear Durnovo, you are quite right. 
I quite agree with you." Finally, M. Schwanenbach came and told 
you something different from what the other two gentlemen had 
said, and again you replied, " M. Schwanenbach, you are quite 
right. I quite agree with you." 

The Tsar (after a moment's reflection) : My dear Alexandra, you 
are quite right. I quite agree with you. 

This infirmity of purpose gives that sense of confusion 
that pervades all his actions. He yields and withdraws, 
creates a Constitution and destroys it, sets up a Duma 
and throws it down, yearns for universal peace and 
blunders into war. He is always under hypnotic sug- 
gestion, now faltering between the rival feminine influ- 
ences of his Court, now subject to the cold, inhuman 
philosophy of a Meshkershtsky, now dominated by the 
mystical charlatanry of M. Philippe, with his miracles 
and spirit messages. 

For superstition is the essential atmosphere of his 
mind, and he dwells in the realm of wonder-working 
relics. One of the saints, Seraphim of Saroff, he ordered 
to be canonised, in spite of the disconcerting fact that 
though he had been buried only seventy years the saint's 
body was decomposed. The Orthodox Bishop Dmitry 
of Tamboff protested on this ground against the beatifi- 
cation as contrary to Church traditions ; but he was 
deprived of his see and sent to Vyatka for venturing to 
disagree with the Tsar. For his Majesty holds that the 
preservation of the bones, the hair, and the teeth is a 
sufficient qualification for saintship. 

With these views it follows that his devotion to the 
Orthodox faith is as intense as it is narrow. It has 
resulted not only in the merciless suppression of the 
Armenian Church and of the Dissenters, but even in the 
harrying of the Old Believers, who are an important 

The Tsar 193 

branch of the State Church, and the bodies of whose 
saints have been disinterred and burned. The cruellest 
episode of the persecution of the Old Believers was that 
of Bishop Methodius, who administered the sacraments 
to a man who, born in the State Church, had joined the 
Old Believers. Methodius, a man of seventy-eight, was 
arrested for his " crime," and condemned to banishment 
to Siberia, whither, with irons on his feet, and penned 
up with criminals, he was dispatched. At Yakutsk he 
remained some time, but a dignitary of the State Church 
intervened and he was ordered to be sent on to Vilyuisk, 
in North-Eastern Siberia, a place inhabited by savages. 
The aged Bishop was set astride a horse to which he 
was tied, and told that he must ride thus to his new 
place of exile, about 700 miles distant. " This sentence 
is death by torture," said Methodius' flock. They were 
not mistaken. The old man gave up the ghost on the 
road (1898), but when, where, and how he was buried 
has never been made known. This and other persecu- 
tions, says the writer of the Quarterly Review article to 
which I have referred, " were brought to the notice of his 
Majesty without eliciting even an expression of regret." 
It is the tragedy of the infirm will, always to become 
the prey of the most virile influences. It treads the path 
of least resistance. And in turn the fanatical obsession 
inculcated by those influences sanctifies every action 
with the divine imprimatur. From this vicious sequence 
we have the phenomenon of merciless oppression emerg- 
ing from a personally shy and timid source. In the 
field of such a mind the victory is always to the most 
intense and ruthless and subtle. Weakness takes refuge 
in strength and timidity in terrorism. The boyish 
emotion that cried out, " A Commons' King : that is 


194 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

what I should like to be," ends in a political gospel 
founded on the maxim of de Plehve " Severity, served 
up cold, is the only way with Empire wreckers." Every- 
where the Autocracy takes on the aspect of vengeance 
and repression. To quote the Quarterly Review writer 
again : "The massacre of Jews, the banishment of Finns, 
the spoliation of Armenians, the persecution of Poles, 
the exile of Russian nobles, the flogging of peasants, 
the imprisonment and butchery of Russian working men, 
the establishment of a widespread system of espionage, 
and the abolition of law are all measures which the 
Minister suggests and the Tsar heartily sanctions." 
That was written before the mockery of a Constitution 
was granted ; but the spirit of the Government is the 
same to-day. The de Plehves and the Bobrikoffs have 
gone to their doom, but their successors are like unto 
them. The hand that conferred a star upon Prince 
Obolensky for his energy in flogging the peasants of the 
Government of KharkofF until many of them died is the 
same hand that decorates the Tsarevitch with the badge 
of the Black Hundreds, that terrible instrument of ven- 
geance, formed almost at the moment that the Constitu- 
tion was granted, and drenched in a sea of innocent 

Nor is it only the fierce, barbaric spirits to which he 
is subject. He has the credulity that makes him the 
easy instrument of the impostor and the visionary, 
whether of the spiritualistic type of Philippe or of the 
type of the eccentric adventurer Bezobrazoff, whose vast 
speculative scheme for developing the Yalu forests 
fascinated first the Grand Dukes, eager for plunder, and 
then the Tsar, who became an investor, gave him 
plenipotentiary powers, subordinated Kuropatkin and 

The Tsar 195 

Lamsdorff to him, allowed him to make the incompetent 
Alexeieff Viceroy of Manchuria, and so drifted into the 
catastrophe of the war. 

He will live as the man who made the great refusal of 
history. He might have been the founder of a new and 
happier Russia the Commons' King of his youthful 
vision. He has chosen to be an Autocrat and a prisoner 
in his forty palaces. In ten years his rule has exiled 
78,000 of his subjects and driven all the best of the 
nation's sons that have escaped Siberia to take refuge 
in other lands. But he himself is the saddest exile of 
all, for he is exiled from the domain of our common 
humanity a prisoner in body and in spirit, hedged 
round by his guards, suspecting the cup that he drinks, 
forbidden to dine anywhere save in his own palace, 
receiving his guests at sea, for he dare not receive them 
ashore, a hapless, pitiful figure that sits 

perked up on a glist'ring grief 
And wears a golden sorrow. 

Which would one rather be the prisoner of the palace, 
or that young Lithuanian carpenter with the blue 
appealing eyes and the toe-nails broken in the torture, 
who gave his blood in the sacred cause of human 
liberty ? 


LORD LOREBURN started life with two enormous ad- 
vantages. He was a Scotsman and he was known as 
"Bob" Reid. To be born a Scotsman is to be born 
with a silver spoon in the mouth. It is to be born, as it 
were, into the governing family. We English are the 
hewers of wood and drawers of water for our Cale- 
donian masters. Formerly they used to raid our borders 
and steal our cattle, but they kept to their own soil. In 
those happy days an Englishman had a chance in his 
own country. To-day he is little better than a hod 
carrier. The Scotsmen have captured not our cattle, 
but the British Empire. They sit in the seats of the 
mighty. Westminster is their washpot, and over Canada 
do they cast out their shoe. The head of the English 
Church is a Scotsman, and his brother of York came 
out of a Scotch Presbyterian manse. The Premier is 
usually a Scotsman, and, if not Scotch, he sits for a 
Scotch constituency, and the Lord Chancellor, the keeper 
of the King's conscience, is a Scotsman too. London 
has become an annexe of Edinburgh, and Canada is 
little more than a Scotch off-hand farm. Our single 
satisfaction is that whenever we want a book to read 
we have only to apply to Skibo Castle and Mr Carnegie 
will send a free library by return. It is a pleasant way 

he has of reminding us that we want educating. 


Photo fry Elliott &* Fry Tojacep. 196 


The Lord Chancellor 197 

Next to being born a Scotsman, Lord Loreburn was 
most fortunate in his name. Many a man's career is 
blasted by an ill name. When Mr A. C. Morton rose 
upon the firmament of Parliament, he seemed to have a 
prosperous future before him. But one day a malevolent 
pressman in the Gallery discovered that " A. C." stood 
for Alpheus Cleophas. He published the fact to the 
world, and Mr Morton never recovered from the blow. 
He vanished in derisive laughter. His fate was sealed 
at the font. No man can stagger to success under such 
a burden as Alpheus Cleophas. And half the bitterness 
felt towards Mr Jabez Balfour was due to his unctuous 
name. It was an aggravation of his offence. It was 
felt to embody all the negative pieties. Lord Loreburn, 
on the other hand, might claim that his name was his 
fortune. There was a simplicity and directness of 
appeal about " Bob " Reid that was irresistible. It left 
nothing more to be said. It was like a certificate of 
good character. It made you trust him without knowing 
him. It seemed to bubble over with good humour, to 
radiate honesty and simple worth, to utter volumes of 
sound sense. A man who was known to everybody as 
" Bob " had disarmed the world. He simply had to 
enter in and take possession. 

A plain, unvarnished man, large of frame and soft of 
voice, stiff in opinion, honest and unimaginative, loyal 
in friendship, immovably obstinate in purpose, he repre- 
sents the British type in its stubborn devotion to justice 
as perfectly as his predecessor represented it in its ruth- 
less claim to the supremacy of force. There was more 
geniality about Lord Halsbury than about Lord Lore- 
burn. But it was the geniality of a merry ogre, secure 
of his victims, jubilant in his strength; jovially con- 

198 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

temptuous of moral considerations. Under the Stuarts 
he would have whipped Dr Clifford off to Jack Ketch 
with a quip about shaving his beard for him. 

Nothing is more significant of the change effected by 
the election of 1906 than the fact that Lord Loreburn 
sits where Lord Halsbury sat for nearly twenty years. 
Lord Halsbury for whose genius as a lawyer, by the 
way, Lord Loreburn has a profound admiration filled 
his great office with a jolly cynicism that made his 
tenure of the woolsack notorious. He frankly regarded 
it as a political instrument. He reduced the Bench to 
a lower level than it had touched for a century. Any 
party hack, any necessitous relative of a Tory magnate, 
might look for office from the Lord Chancellor. There 
is a story probably invented, but conveying the spirit 
of political preference in which he exercised his great 
powers of patronage that when one position on the 
Bench fell vacant the late Lord Salisbury asked him to 
appoint a certain barrister to the post Even Lord Hals- 
bury was staggered at the proposal. " But," he said, " a 
Judge must know a little law. It would be a scandal to 

put on the Bench." "It would be a worse scandal," 

replied Salisbury, " for a member of an old county 
family to pass through the Bankruptcy Court." The 
plea was irresistible. Lord Chancellor Westbury, when 
his nepotism had become so gross a scandal as to lead 
to protest from his colleagues, replied, " But remember my 
oath. I have promised to appoint only those whom I 
know to be fitted for the duties. A dozen names are 
submitted to me. One of them is that of a man whom 
I have known for years, perhaps all my life, and whom I 
know to be fitted for the office. What am I to do ? " 
It was an unanswerable way of putting the case ; but 

The Lord Chancellor 199 

Lord Halsbury had a certain blunt honesty that would 
have scorned such ingenious defences. " To the victors 
the spoils" was his maxim, and he acted upon it with 
a gay contempt for criticism which had a certain merit 
that adroit excuses would not have had. 

The fault of Lord Loreburn is in the opposite direction. 
He is overwhelmed with the sense of responsibility. 
The solemn oath he has taken is ever present to his 
mind. " I saw him take it," said a friend of his to me, 
" and I saw the deep impression it made later. I went 
to see him when he was considering an appointment. 
When he began to murmur his oath, ' without fear or 
favour,' and the rest, I knew there was going to be 
trouble." Soon after the election I was sitting at dinner 
next to one of those clever women of the Tory Party 
who pull the strings of Government behind the scenes. 
" I was terribly frightened of your Lord Chancellor," she 
said. " I have just met him at dinner. We have 
nothing to fear from your Lord Chancellor." What she 
meant was that Lord Loreburn was so just that he 
could be relied on to be a little unjust to his own side. 

Hence the anger, not loud but deep, that has raged 
around him. His speeches in the House of Lords are 
brave utterances of uncompromising Radicalism. The 
man who stood like a rock against the war now faces the 
serried ranks of Toryism and in suave accents delivers 
the most Radical speeches ever spoken from the wool- 
sack since the days of Brougham. But when it comes 
to the administration of his department, then away with 
party. Justice, as he conceives it, shall be done though 
the heavens of Liberalism fall in ruins. It was he he, 
the fierce enemy of the war and of Chinese serfdom 
who stood for the sanctity of those 16,000 permits 

2oo Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

which the Tories issued to the mine-owners on the eve 
of the dissolution. It is he who has restored the full 
authority of Tory lord - lieutenants throughout the 
country to ratify the nominations to the magistracy. 
Every appointment shall be made on its intrinsic merits 
and through traditional channels without relation to 
politics. An excellent ideal, except that the lord- 
lieutenants have no legal authority, as Lord Herschel 
showed. An excellent ideal, if we did not start with a 
bench packed during twenty years with Conservatives. 
But to the plain man who fought to destroy this gross 
partiality of the bench, and who incidentally placed 
Lord Loreburn in the position to do him justice, this 
excessive correctitude seemed like a betrayal. 

Lord Loreburn has faced the rebels in his own camp 
as unflinchingly as he faces the Lords on questions of 
policy and principle, or as he used to face the bowling 
in the days when he kept wicket for Oxford. He faces 
them with a certain stiffness and hauteur that treats 
criticism as an affront to his solemn oath. " I do not 

wish to be introduced to Mr ," he said on one 

occasion of a certain Liberal M.P. "I do not wish to 
be introduced to those associated with him. He has 
been very rude to me on the subject of the magistrates." 

Whether we like this view of duty or not, we cannot 
but respect its honesty and fearlessness. It springs 
from a rare purity of motive, from the ideal of public 
service as a sacred trust. Such a tradition will make 
the task of future Halsburys difficult. 

In his personal relations Lord Loreburn has none of 
the cold severity of office. He is a man of singular 
sensitiveness and tenderness of heart, clinging to old 
memories and old friendships. His devotion to the late 

The Lord Chancellor 201 

Sir Frank Lockwood when living, and to his memory 
now that he is dead, is typical of this fine trait They 
were the David and Jonathan of the Bar and the House. 
Sir Frank as those who saw the exhibition of his cari- 
catures will remember satirised his friend mercilessly, 
pictured him in kilts holding on to a lamp-post, meeting 
a young lady in the dusk with the legend, " Meet me at 
the corner when the clock strikes nine," and preparing 
his speech for the Parnell Commission with the aid of 
a short black pipe and a huge whisky bottle. But no 
one enjoyed these wild extravagances of friendship more 
than Sir Robert. His affection for kindly John 
O'Connor, M.P., is a tradition of the House and of the 
National Liberal Club, and he never fails to preside at 
the frequent dinners to Spencer Leigh Hughes. " Show 

me a man's friends " In these friendships we have 

the key to Lord Loreburn's character. He loves the 
plain, unpretentious man, who wants nothing, fears 
nothing, hates cant, and tells the truth. All the better 
if he plays cricket. " Does he bowl ? " used to be one 
of his questions when a candidate for the Eighty Club 
came before him. For in the days of his youth he was 
a brilliant wicket-keeper, filling the position for Oxford 
against Cambridge, and in the days of his years and 
dignities he became President of the M.C.C. Thrice, 
moreover, he represented Oxford at racquets and later 
fought for the amateur tennis championship unsuccess- 
fully against Sir Edward Grey. But he was far too 
good a Scot to allow pleasure to absorb his energies, and 
his industry and solid capacity secured him a double- 
first And when he saw that the attractions of the play- 
ing fields endangered his career, he put bat and racquet 
firmly aside for ever. 

2O2 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

The same resolute purpose and tenacity carried him 
to the head of his profession. When Jowett asked him 
what career he proposed for himself and he told him the 
Bar, the Master of Balliol said in his arid way, " You 
will do no good at the Bar. Good morning." When, 
years later, his reputation made and his future secure, he 
revisited Oxford, Jowett said, " By the way, Mr Reid, I 
told you you would be no good at the Bar. I beg 
your pardon. Good morning." It is dogged that does 
it, and the Lord Chancellor's career is the most striking 
example to-day of what may be achieved by plain, 
homespun capacities governed by an indomitable 

His love of the plain man was the secret of his 
devotion to Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman, as it was 
of Sir Henry's attachment to him an attachment not 
blind to his little defects. " Reid is a splendid fellow," he 
said to me, " but if he doesn't have his own way he can 
be an uncomfortable bed-fellow." Through all the bitter 
time of the war Sir Robert stood by him with a loyalty 
that neither asked nor gave quarter. He was the re- 
lentless enemy of the Liberal League, stiff, uncompro- 
mising, and challenging. He burnt his boats with the 
Rosebery Party, and in the Temple his chances of the 
Chancellorship were ridiculed. But when Lord Rosebery 
went down to Bodmin one Saturday and said finally, " I 
will not serve under that flag," he incidentally placed Sir 
Robert Reid on the woolsack. His was the first ap- 
pointment Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman made when 
he came into power. 

With the exception I have indicated, it has been 
splendidly justified. Lord Loreburn has not the learn- 
ing of Gladstone's great Chancellors, Page Wood and 

The Lord Chancellor 203 

Roundell Palmer, but he has courage, high purpose, and 
persuasiveness. His appointments to the High Court 
and the County Court have won general approval. He 
has set himself to reform the " law's delay " with striking 
success. On the bench his judgments are grave, lucid, 
and weighty. 

He is an example of the maxim that " honesty is the 
best policy " honesty backed by very plain, everyday 
qualities, industry, courage, unwavering purpose. A 
solid man, without brilliancy, imagination, profundity, or 
humour, he has risen to the highest place in a profession 
in which these qualities are more common than in any 
other department of life. It is the triumph of character, 
the reward of the " industrious apprentice " and of ster- 
ling worth. England has had more brilliant Lord 
Chancellors, but none who combined in a greater degree 
the sense of the high responsibilities of his office with 
perfect honesty, unaffected dignity, and rare lucidity of 
thought and utterance. 


LIFE, it has been said, is a comedy to him who thinks 
and a tragedy to him who feels. Judged by this axiom, 
Mr Haldane is the man who thinks. He bathes the 
world in wreathed smiles. He floods it with infectious 
good humour. He seems to go through life humming 
softly to himself. " Toujours bien, jamais mieux," is 
his motto. What a delightful world it is, he seems to 
say, and what a capital fellow you are, and what capital 
fellows we all are ! It is like the comfortable purring of 
a cat on the hearthrug. It fills you with the ecstasy of 
a quiet content. Everything is snug and warm, the 
kettle is singing on the hob, the fire burns brightly in 
the grate, and though the wind howls and moans out- 
side, it serves only as a foil to the comfort within. It is 
the best of all possible worlds. 

" He has always been so," his mother, with whom 
he lives, will tell you. " He is always cheerful, never 
worries, and works incessantly." This unconquerable 
good humour is perhaps less the result of philosophy 
than of a good digestion. He comes of a hardy strain. 
The Haldanes were fighters in the brave days of old. 
One fell at Flodden, and others also found immortality 
on the battlefield. For generations they have been 
remarkable for their pedestrian powers. Mr Haldane's 
grandfather thought little of an eight-mile walk even in 

ritoto l<y Thotiison 

To face p. 204 


Robert Burden Haldane 205 

his eighty-third year, and there is a story that his grand- 
uncle, having been prayed for by one of his clerical 
friends as " Thine aged and infirm servant," suggested a 
little stroll, from which the clerical friend returned in 
such a state of exhaustion that he fell into a deep 
slumber, from which he could hardly be aroused in time 
for the service he was to perform. Mr Haldane himself 
is credited with having frequently walked sixty or 
seventy miles in a day ; while his brothers are said to 
have established a record of 103^ miles under thirty-one 
hours. His big, alert frame and his massive neck suggest 
those physical resources which have made his powers of 
work and endurance possible. " Nothing in the way of 
work can be done without a big boiler and a bull-neck," 
said a sea captain to me long ago. Mr Haldane has 
both, and his capacity for work has always been 

This physical energy is matched by a similar mental 
energy. He has lived four careers philosopher, lawyer, 
politician, and man of the world, and has spared himself 
in none of them. He is an intellectual steam engine. 
When once he has started talking, there seems no 
reason why he should ever leave off. There is no end 
to him. His oratory is like an interminable round of 
beef you may cut and come again. One feels that the 
river of his rhetoric will flow on for ever, fed by a thou- 
sand inexhaustible rills. The smooth, persuasive voice 
inundates the House with a flood of words. The enemy 
attempts to dam the torrent in vain. In vain does Mr 
Arnold-Forster raise his head above the flood and utter 
an angry interjection. He is engulfed by a wave from 
the rhetorical ocean, and the waters flow on in copious 

206 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

He has been known at the end of the second hour of 
a speech to start afresh with a pleasant remark on 
" these preliminary observations." On one occasion 
he went to a Volunteer dinner and came away telling 
his friends that everyone had approved his scheme. He 
did not know that the company had come together 
seething with objections and had been literally talked 
into silence and surrender. 

It was said of Gladstone that when it suited his 
purpose no one could wander more widely from his 
subject. It may be said of Mr Haldane that no one can 
invest a subject in a more lucid fog. A lucid fog, I 
know, seems like a contradiction in terms; but no one 
who has heard Mr Haldane speak for, say, three hours 
will deny that there is such a thing. The lucidity of 
his mind is as conclusive as the fog in yours. The 
clearer he becomes to himself, the more hopeless is your 
bewilderment. If only one could feel that he himself 
was getting a little lost in this amazing labyrinth of 
locution, one would feel less humiliated. But it is 
obvious that the less you understand him the more he 
understands himself. He smiles urbanely upon you, 
and points the fat didactic finger at you with pleasant 
intimacy. He does you the honour of pretending that 
you follow him, and self-respect compels you to accept 
the delicate tribute to your penetration. It is a comedy 
which saves him a lot of trouble. 

There are some men who seem never to have known 
a joy in life, and there are few who do not have their 
variations of temperature and their moments of de- 
pression. Mr Haldane gives the impression that he has 
never known a sorrow that there was never a moment 
in which he was not walking on air in sheer exaltation 

Robert Burdon Haldane 207 

of mind and body. The atmosphere of flagrant enjoy- 
ment that he exudes must be an offence to the man of a 
melancholy habit of mind. He cannot help distrusting 
such an apparently inexhaustible reservoir of cheerful- 
ness. No man, he feels, can be really so happy as Mr 
Haldane seems, and since that is so it is clear that he 
is playing a part. " As for professional optimists," said 
a distinguished philosopher of the opposite school to 
me, " one is always sceptical about them : they wear too 
much the strained look of the smile on a skull." No- 
thing could be less true of the optimism of Mr Haldane. 
It is simply a huge capacity for enjoyment, funda- 
mentally physical, and having no relation to his con- 
clusions about the universe. It is customary to poke 
fun at his Hegelianism and to treat his philosophic 
interests as a disqualification for politics. If Being and 
Non-Being are identical so runs the quip it obviously 
does not matter whether we have an Army in Being or 
an Army in Non-Being. But to Mr Haldane philosophy 
is only an intellectual exercise, as chemistry was to the 
late Lord Salisbury, or as theology and Homer were 
to Gladstone. It springs from his sympathy with the 
German genius. 

For Mr Haldane is Teutonic in his love of abstract 
thinking, and in his enthusiasm for thoroughness and 
exactness. He turns always to Germany for inspiration. 
He went thither after graduating at Edinburgh, and his 
first literary enterprise was his translation of Schopen- 
hauer. His dinner table talk is full of German re- 
miniscences, and he never misses an opportunity of 
addressing German visitors on the Terrace in their own 
tongue. He is as great a favourite with the King as 
Lord Cross used to be with Victoria, but that fact does 

208 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

not exclude the Kaiser from his opulent affections, and 
the Kaiser returns the feeling, always receives him with 
enthusiasm, and loves to show him his army. And it is 
to the German Army that he goes for ideas. On one of 
his visits to Berlin he said, " Germany, as all the world 
knows, has much to teach military students, and I am 
here simply to avail myself of the opportunity of study- 
ing her institutions before engaging in any tinkering of 
our own." It is from Germany that he brought the idea 
of a General Staff with which he began his reform of the 
British Army. 

It must be admitted, too, that the type of his 
Liberalism is German. It is vague and indeterminate. 
It breathes expediency rather than the compulsion of 
principle. It approaches politics purely as a business 
proposition, and seeks to establish national greatness on 
scientific and material rather than moral foundations. 
It follows naturally that he was the standard-bearer of 
Lord Rosebery through the years of disunion, and that 
during the war he was the chief author and inspirer of 
the Liberal Imperial schism. His strategy was opposed 
to the strategy of Mr Harcourt, and the pair were not 
unequally matched, though in one memorable struggle 
for the soul of the Eighty Club I think Mr Harcourt 
showed the more masterly tactics. That he is not Lord 
Chancellor is due less to himself than to the perversity 
and indecision of his leader. Lord Rosebery played a 
part similar to that which Eachin played in the great 
fight on the North Inch described in The Fair Maid of 
Perth. The stalwarts of the Clan Quhele surrounded 
him with loyal devotion. "Death for Hector" (Bas 
air son Eachin) was the cry as they went into the 
combat ; but at the crisis of the fight, after prodigies 

Robert Burdon Haldane 209 

of heroism had been performed by others, Hector 
turned, plunged into the Tay and fled from the battle. 
And Hal o' th' Wynd, in the person of stout C.-B., was 
left master of the field. His first act was to appoint 
Sir Robert Reid to the Woolsack. He did not love 
the Clan Quhele. 

It was a bitter disappointment ; but Mr Haldane bore 
it with his imperturbable air of enjoyment and took up 
his task at the War Office with a passion of zeal that 
suggested that this was the ambition of his life. There 
had been many new brooms at the War Office; but 
never such a new broom as this. He swept, as it were, 
incessantly, and as he swept he talked, now to the 
public, now to the Army, now to Parliament. His 
breezy confidence won confidence. The world always 
believes in a man who believes in himself. It is the 
first condition of success, and Mr Haldane's faith in 
himself amounts to inspiration. The world also loves a 
man who pays it the compliment of taking it into his 
confidence. That is largely the secret of Mr Haldane's 
popularity. He is always taking you into his confidence. 
Queen Victoria's objection to Gladstone was that he 
talked to her as if he were addressing a public meeting. 
Mr Haldane talks to you as if you were the British 
Empire and must be placated at all costs. You may 
doubt his scheme ; but you cannot doubt his enthusi- 
asm. You may dislike his politics; but you cannot 
help being moved by the deference he pays to your 

It is by these methods that he has conquered the 
Army. You cannot resist a man who bursts with such 
enjoyment into the mess, smokes bigger and stronger 
cigars than anyone else, and obviously enjoys them 

2io Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

more, knows as much about explosives as he does about 
the Westminster Confession, and with all these accom- 
plishments does you the delicate honour of discussing 
his scheme with you as if your approval were the one 
thing in the world necessary to his complete happiness. 
One of his predecessors at the War Office, speaking to 
me on one occasion about the difficulties of his task, 
said : " What can you do with these infernal colonels, 
who know less about war than they know about 
virtue?" Mr Haldane knows very well what to do 
with them. He does not lecture them or hector them. 
He talks to them as if he were consulting them, and 
they surrender to his blandishments. " He yields on 
small things with such bonhomie that out of sheer 
chivalry they can't help yielding to him on big ones," 
said one who works with him to me. " Moreover, they 
have had such an experience of War Secretaries in the 
past, that, by comparison, Haldane is a jewel, and they 
think that any change would probably be for the worse." 
There is the reason why Mr Haldane has got his schemes 
through with such success. He greases the wheels well. 
These schemes may be good or bad. Time alone will 
prove them. But to have got them through with so 
little resistance and to remain relatively popular with 
the colonels is an achievement in the art of managing 
men. Even when he disbanded the 3rd Battalion of 
the Scots Guards, there were tears, but few reproaches. 
It was a courageous act, for it brought him into conflict 
with the King and with his old leader. The King pro- 
nounced a funeral oration on the Guards and said he 
hoped to see them revived, while Lord Rosebery 
forgetful of all the loyal service of his old lieutenant, 
and remembering only that he dared to be happy 

Robert Burden Haldane 211 

without him tore a passion of indignation to tatters 
and then fell into dramatic silence, to awaken later on 
in a passion about something else. 

I am not sure whether Mr Haldane invented the word 
"efficiency," which has become the hardest worked vocable 
in politics. When Humpty Dumpty explained how 
much he meant by " Impenetrability," he added, " When 
I make a word do a lot of work like that I always pay 
it extra." On that just principle, "efficiency" ought 
to-day to be the most prosperous word in the language. 
It represents the political gospel opposed to the fine old 
English doctrine of "muddling through," the phrase 
in which Lord Rosebery summed up the Boer war. 
But whether he invented it or not, Mr Haldane is its 
recognised exponent. " Efficiency, and again efficiency, 
and always efficiency." It is the German spirit that he 
opposes to the French spirit of Danton's axiom : effi- 
ciency and ideas. " We have won a magnificent victory," 
he said, after the General Election of 1906. " What is it 
that we need ? What is it that has been wanting in the 
past ? I answer in a word ideas ! We have got the 
majority. Have we got the ideas?" One sees him 
pausing for the obvious reply. " Not numbers but 
efficiency" is his maxim in the making of an army. 
And he pays himself a modest compliment when he 
adds, " I have never had a more congenial occupation 
than this attempt at reorganisation and the introduction 
of science into the business." 

It remains to be seen whether the German doctrine 
of " thorough " can be engrafted on the English stem 
of hand-to-mouth practicality, and whether English 
Liberalism could survive the infusion of bureaucracy 
which is the basis of Mr Haldane's clear thinking. But 

212 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

whatever the fate of Mr Haldane and his Army reforms 
may be, we may be sure that nothing will ever destroy 
his indestructible complacency. Ministries may rise and 
fall, Army schemes come and go, but his exuberance 
will remain. " Toujours bien, jamais mieux " will be his 
motto, and through all the cataclysms of politics he will 
still go his way humming softly to himself in sheer 
spiritual revelry. 

Photo by Kilioti o- / >> 



I AM not sure that when the historian of the future 
discusses our time he will not find the most significant 
event on that day in 1892 when James Keir Hardie 
rode up to Westminster from West Ham, clothed in 
cloth cap, tweed suit, and flannel shirt, and accompanied 
by a band. The world scoffed at the vulgarity, or 
shuddered at the outrage, according to its humour ; but 
the event was, nevertheless, historic. It marked the 
emergence of a new force in politics. It was a prophet 
who came a prophet in "ill-country clothes," wild- 
eyed, speaking in accents as rugged and uncouth as 
his garb. 

A prophet you say this dour demagogue a prophet ? 
And why not ? The prophet has always been dour and 
generally a demagogue. Even Cromwell, who had been 
to Cambridge, and was, among other things, a brewer, 
was both. Sir Philip Warwick, entering the House one 
day, and seeing him on his feet, has left his picture for 
all time a gloomy-browed man, with harsh, discordant 
voice, dressed in ill-country clothes, and having a splash 
of blood on his collar. A most unamiable figure to the 
polite mind of the Cavalier ; but a prophet, a rock on 
which the ship of the Cavaliers was to go to pieces. 
And, whether you like him or not, Keir Hardie was a 
rock, too, in those days when he stood, gloomy and 


214 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

alone, in the midst of the Amalekites. It needed such a 
man for such a rdle. 

The prophet is never a comfortable person. He 
would not be a prophet if he were. " Tammas is gey ill 
to live wi'," said Carlyle's mother of her famous son ; and 
Mr Keir Hardie, who shares Carlyle's rage with the 
world as well as Carlyle's dialect and gloomy brow, is 
"gey ill to live wi'," too. He glowers at life from 
beneath his mournful eyebrows, and he confounds us 
all in one universal malediction. He shrinks from 
contact with Society as from the touch of contamination. 
It is the quality of gilt as well as of pitch to defile. He 
will not be defiled by the gilt of the prosperous. You 
will never find a dress shirt under the red tie of Keir 
Hardie. He will never be petted by Princes and Peers. 

He is the pit-lad of politics. He refuses to be any- 
thing else, for he has none of the spirit of Smiles' 
Self-Help. It is true that, outwardly, his career fulfils 
all the conditions of a Smiles hero. He went down the 
pit shaft, a little lad of eight, to win his bread. He 
never had a day's schooling. His mother taught him to 
read, but he was seventeen before he could write his 
name. He taught himself shorthand, practising the 
characters on the face of the coal seam where he worked. 
He read Carlyle and Stuart Mill, and came out of the 
pit at twenty-three with an idea, a purpose, a vision. He 
would be an Ishmaelite. He would create a party of 
political Ishmaelites, and with them he would march 
into the fat pastures of Canaan and challenge the ancient 
tyrants a fierce, intractable man, his hand against every 
man, and every man's hand against him. 

To-day his dream is accomplished. Whether titular 
leader or not, he is the chief figure and inspirer of 

James Keir Hardie 215 

that group of which he was the "first begetter." But 
success has not been crowned with the reward that 
attended the Smiles hero, whose hardships were admir- 
able because they led to plenty and the companionship of 
the great. Mr Keir Hardie has had no visible reward. 
I do not think he wants reward. His home is still in 
the little cottage at Cumnock, where he was once a pit- 
lad, and in London you must still seek him in that 
lodging in the ancient house off Fetter Lane, where, when 
he first sought a room, the good landlady, scanning the 
rough figure, demanded references, and was placated by 
the names of half a dozen members of Parliament He 
clings to his poverty with the pride of a Highland 

For he is proud with the secretive pride of his country. 
The vanity of the Englishman is flagrant and assertive. 
It displays itself with the frankness of a child, and 
expires at a sneer. But the pride of the Scotsman hugs 
itself close. It is like the camomile: the more it is 
trodden on the better it grows. It asks for no recogni- 
tion. It is self-contained. Flattery cannot exalt it ; 
inappreciation cannot wound it. It never comes to the 
surface, and is most happy when it is most misunder- 
stood. When Mr Keir Hardie was entering the House 
one day a policeman stopped him. " Are you at work 
here, mate ? " he asked. " Yes, " was the laconic reply. 
"On the roof?" " No, on the floor." And he passed 
in, happy in the pride that would not reveal itself. An 
Englishman would have wanted the policeman's number, 
and would have had his day embittered by wounded 
vanity. And I can imagine that the happiest moment 
Mr Hardie ever had was when he was arrested in 
Brussels in mistake for Rubino, the assassin. I think 

216 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

he would rejoice to be hanged as the wrong man. The 
knowledge that he was right and his executioners were 
wrong would fill his last moments with a sombre joy. 

He is, too, the most typical Scotsman in the House, 
in appearance and outlook. He is " the Knight of the 
Rueful Countenance." His face is cast in a tragic 
mould, and his temperament has the gloom of Calvinism 
and the severity of the Shorter Catechism. When your 
eye passes from the cheerful Irishmen behind him to his 
sad and foreboding figure, you recall a passage in one 
of Scott's letters : " While a Scotchman is thinking 
about the term day, or, if easy on that subject, about 
hell in the next world while an Englishman is making 
a little hell in the present because his muffin is not well 
toasted Pat's mind is always turned to fun and ridi- 
cule." There is no fun and ridicule about Mr Keir 
Hardie, and the perfectibility of his muffin leaves him 
uncheered. He has a soul too sorrowful to be moved 
by muffins. His figure brings up the vision of the 
Covenanters and that grey Galloway land, " where about 
the graves of the martyrs the whaups are crying." One 
seems to see him out-rivalling Habakkuk Mucklewrath 
in the dark frenzy of his declamation, and rushing to 
the attack at Bothwell Brig with damnatory psalms 
upon his lips. 

The child-man of Plato's fancy who had come to 
maturity in some dark cave and suddenly emerged into 
the light of day was intoxicated by the glory and splen- 
dour of the universe. He was filled with wonder at the 
miracle which we have ceased to see. When Mr Keir 
Hardie emerged from the pit he was filled with wonder, 
too. But it was wonder at the fantastic disorder of 
society, at a world in which realities are buried deep 

James Keir Hardie 217 

beneath a cake of custom and convention, where we see 
not the thing, but the appearance ; not the cause, but 
the effect, and where the point of view is still that of 
the " Northern Farmer." 

'Tisn't them as has money that breeaks into houses and steals, 
Them as has cooats to their backs and taakes their regular meeals : 
Naw, it's them as niwer knaaws wheer a meeal's to be had 
Taake my word for it, Sammy, the poor in a loomp is bad. 

He has kept the freshness of that first revelation. 
The wonder light is still in his eye. Contact with the 
world has not blurred his sight. He remains a seer, not 
dazzled by shows ; but with his eye fixed on realities. 
It was not rudeness that he intended when, on a 
memorable occasion, he spoke of bigamy in a certain 
connection. It was that his eye penetrated the polite 
fiction, and came to the plain, human fact. And 
when he attacked the late Lord Salisbury in connection 
with some slum revelations, and said, " I would not 
remain a member of a club which admitted his lordship 
to membership," he was not insolent, or even humorous, 
though the world laughed at the joke. He simply saw 
the naked fact. The circumstance that it was a Prime 
Minister who owned slum property did not make the 
fact less flagrant, but more. 

I have been told by one who was present that his 
animus towards the Liberal Party dates from a meeting 
when a local Liberal of consequence refused to go on 
the platform if the irreconcilable miner's agent were 
allowed to be on the platform too, and when he was 
left to nurse his wrath outside. But he never was and 
never could be a Liberal. He is a rebel ridden by a 
theory. Liberalism stands for the adaptation of exist- 
ing society to new needs : he stands for the recreation 

218 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

of society. Toryism is an ally. It stands for the old 
structure, crumbling and decayed. It makes his task 
possible ; while Liberalism, by making the structure 
habitable and watertight, defeats his dream. 

Of the three Socialist leaders of European reputation, 
he is the most doctrinaire. Jaures has the statesman's 
outlook, and applies his theories to the practical criti- 
cism of Government. Bebel is a man of affairs. He 
revels in the fight. As he talks to you his eye twinkles 
with merriment and sly enjoyment. He is always 
happy, always sanguine. A pleasant, human man, 
enjoying the drama of politics, with its cut and thrust, 
its humours and its gravities. Mr Keir Hardie is 
solitary and menacing an embodied theory. 

He is not a politician or a statesman. He is a 
fanatic. The politician must temporise and compromise. 
He yields as little as he can, and takes as much as he 
can. He studies the weather, and is governed by the 
seasons. He equivocates and waits upon circumstance. 
The fanatic knows nothing of this opportunism. The 
thunder is always on his brow, the lightning always in 
his eye, the fire at his heart always smouldering into 
flame. He is a man obsessed with an idea. It gives 
him no rest, and he gives you no rest. Hence Mr Keir 
Hardie's failure as a Parliamentarian. He has none 
of the plasticity necessary for the man of affairs. He 
is stiff and irreconcilable. He is indifferent to detail. 
He has no gratitude for small mercies. His eye is on 
the far-off vision. He is the only man who could have 
created the Labour Party, for concentration and inten- 
sity are the creative impulses. But he is almost the 
only man in the party who is not fitted to lead it. 
It is plain, common-sense men like Mr Shackleton and 

James Keir Hardie 219 

Mr Henderson, and astute politicians like Mr Ramsay 
Macdonald who have made it a political instrument 
His party is not as himself. He is as isolated in it as 
when he stood alone in the House. For no party can 
exist on anathema and prophecy. A cause comes into 
being at the breath of the prophet, and then leaves him 
in the desert. 

It goes without saying that there is a strain of poetry 
in him, for no poetry, no idealism. The prophet must 
not only see the naked fact ; he must have the visionary 
gleam. It goes without saying, too, that it is the poetry 
of Burns, with its fierce democratic passion and its 
exaltation of the humble and the sincere, that appeals 
most to him. One who heard him lecture on Burns 
told me that it revealed to him a world of unsuspected 
tenderness and emotion in the heart of this rugged, 
uncompromising man. But, indeed, it must be so. It 
is the fierce antipathies of the theorist that the world 
sees ; but deep down in his heart these antipathies are 
seen to have their roots in a sympathy as fierce the 
sympathy with the class from which he sprang, and 
which he has never deserted. He hates the palace 
because he remembers the pit. 


A FRIEND of mine one of those people described by 
Keats as being married to a romance and given away 
by a sonnet stopped in the course of a pilgrimage in 
Wessex at the hotel of a small market town. As he 
waited for lunch he discussed men and things with a 
farmer, a cheerful, bucolic soul, whose name may have 
been Gabriel Oak. 

"Does Thomas Hardy ever come here? " he asked. 

" Thomas Hardy ! Thomas Hardy ! " and the farmer's 
face took on the pale cast of thought. Suddenly his 
countenance cleared. " Ah," he said, with an air of 
quiet triumph, born of superior knowledge, " you mean 
Bill Hardy, the pig dealer, a little round-faced man wi' 
whiskers under his chin. Oh yes, he comes here every 
market day." 

My friend expressed his satisfaction at the informa- 
tion, and sat down to his lunch with the comfortable 
sense of a secret possession. Farmer Oak stood before 
him, delightfully unconscious that he was immortal. 

For Thomas Hardy shares the privilege of the prophets 
of old. He loves quiet and obscurity, and he has 
realised that to be obscure you must dwell among your 
own people. He knows, too, that to keep the inspiration 
pure you must drink at the spring whence it issues, and 
not slake your thirst at the muddy waters of London. 

Photo by Russell & Sons 

To face p. 220 


Thomas Hardy 221 

And so, when, after years of London life, hovering be- 
tween architecture and literature, he found that he had 
a career in literature opened to him, he returned to his 
own people and there not far from the little cottage 
at Upper Bockhampton where he was born, where his 
mother died in her ninetieth year, whence, fifty years 
ago, he used to trudge to the architect's office at 
Dorchester, and whither he used to return to burn the 
midnight oil over the classics and the Greek Testament 
he lives in the deepening shadow of the mystery of 
this unintelligible world. The journey that began with 
the bucolic joy of Under the Greenwood Tree has 
reached its close in the unmitigated misery of Jude the 
Obscure, accompanied by the mocking voices of those 
aerial spirits who pass their comments upon the futile 
struggle of the " Dynasts," as they march their armies 
to and fro across the mountains and rivers of that globe 
which the eye of imagination sees whirling like a midge 
in space. Napoleon and the Powers! What are they 
but puppets in the hand of some passionless fate, loveless 
and hateless, whose purposes are beyond all human 

vision ? 

O Immanence, That reasonest not 

In putting forth all things begot, 

Thou build'st Thy house in space for what ? 

O Loveless, Hateless ! past the sense 

Of kindly-eyed benevolence, 

To what tune danceth this Immense ? 

And for answer comes the mocking voice of the Spirit 

For one I cannot answer. But I know 
'Tis handsome of our Pities so to sing 
The praises of the dreaming, dark, dumb Thing 

That turns the handle of this idle Show. 

Night has come down upon the outlook of the writer 

222 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

as it came down over the sombre waste of Egdon Heath. 
There is not a cheerful feature left, not one glint of 
sunshine in the sad landscape of broken ambitions and 
squalor and hopeless strivings and triumphant misery. 
Labour and sorrow, a little laughter, disillusion and 
suffering and after that, the dark. Not the dark that 
flees before the radiant dawn, but the dark whose greatest 
benediction is eternal nothingness. Other men of genius, 
most men of genius, have had their periods of deep de- 
jection in which only the mocking voice of the Spirit 
Ironic answered their passionate questionings. Shake- 
speare himself may be assumed to have passed through 
the valley of gloom in that tremendous period when he 
produced the great tragedies ; but he came out of the 
shadow, and The Winter s Tale has the serenity and 
peace of a cloudless sunset. But the pilgrimage of 
Thomas Hardy has led us ever into deeper shadow. 
The shadows of the prison-house have closed around us. 
There is no return to the cheerful day. The journey we 
began with those jolly carol-singers under the greenwood 
tree has ended in the hopeless misery of Jude. 

And yet what a journey it has been ! What com- 
panions we have had by the way Tranter Dewey 
taking off his coat to the dance, Farmer Oak in the 
midst of his sheepfold looking up to the stars for the 
hour of night, Giles Winterbourne and Marty South 
planting the young larches amid the deep silence of the 
woodlands, Michael Henchard, magnificent in his rude, 
elemental strength, most impressive in the hour of his 
utter discomfiture and desolation above all, the com- 
panionship of Nature, which is the true secret of his 
abiding hold. Nature is never a mere picturesque back- 
ground for the human play. It is the most potent 

Thomas Hardy 223 

personality. Light, said the Impressionists, is the chief 
person in a picture. Nature is the chief actor in the 
Hardy drama Nature, vast, sentient, mysterious, upon 
whose bosom the brief human figure is tossed like 
driftwood in its passage from eternity to eternity. One 
feels here, as in Wordsworth's poetry to which the 
poetic prose of Hardy is the complement that 

The mighty Being is awake, 
And doth with her eternal motion, make 
A sound like thunder, everlastingly. 

Out of that immensity and mystery of Nature, poor 
humanity emerges to play its part, and that a sad one. 
For even the gleams of joy and what humour is more 
rich, more reminiscent of the Shakespearean vintage than 
that of the Wessex rustics ? are shadowed with the sense 
of doom that makes our triumphs trivial and happiness 
itself a jest. " ' Justice ' was done and the President of 
the Immortals (in ^Eschylean phrase) had finished his 
sport with Tess." In that sentence we have an epitome 
of Thomas Hardy's conception of human life a creature 
in the hand of an impenetrable Fate, cold, passionless, 
indiscriminating, whose justice is a mockery, to whom 
virtue is nothing and vice nothing, and from whose grim 
ironic grasp we escape to utter darkness and silence. 

I have said that Hardy's concept of nature is comple- 
mentary to Wordsworth's. It is the shadow of the deep 
valley, cast by the mountain on whose sunward slopes the 
light still sleeps. The spirit of Night broods over all 
majestic, mysterious, ominous. Night and the twilight 
Jupiter casting the shadow of Tess as she digs in the allot- 
ment, the pageant of the stars passing before the rapt 
gaze of St Cleeve, the breath of the night wind awaking 
the thin music of the heath or stirring the woodlands to a 

224 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

richer symphony, the primeval monoliths, terrific, awe- 
some, instinct with meaning and mystery in the vast and 
suggestive twilight this is the atmosphere in which the 
figures move on to a destiny as inscrutable as Night 

He is the antithesis of Meredith, whose voice is of the 
morning, and whose vision is of the day. Meredith is 
the mind looking out with quick and thrilling interest 
upon the play of life ; Hardy is the heart wrung by its 
agonies, " an infant crying for the light." To Meredith 
Nature is a joyous companion filled with the spirit of 
immortal youth; it is "The Lark Uprising" of whom 
he sings. To Hardy it is a merciless Fate, uttering 
itself in the hoot of the night-owl. 

He is the Millet of literature, sounding the same note 
of the sorrow of the earth, working in the same elemental 
media. It is not his semi-barbaric women that we 
remember. They are excrescences. It is his peasants, 
untouched by the centuries, types of the enduring 
elements of humanity, as Egdon Heath is the type of 
the earth's ageless story, whom we love Gabriel Oak, 
the glass of truth and the mould of manhood ; Giles 
Winterbourne, tender and self-effacing, a hero in cor- 
duroys ; Marty South, nursing her love in secret, and 
when Death has given to her the object of her devotion 
crooning by his grave her triumphant grief: 

Now, my own, own love, you are mine, and on'y mine ; for she 
has forgot 'ee at last, although for her you died ! But I whenever 
I get up I'll think of 'ee, and whenever I lie down I'll think of 'ee. 
Whenever I plant the young larches I'll think that none can plant 
as you planted ; and whenever I split a gad, and whenever I turn the 
cider wring, I'll say none could do it like you. If ever I forget your 
name let me forget home and Heaven ! . . . But no, no, my love, I 
can never forget 'ee ; for you was a good man, and did good things ! 

It is this intense insight into the beauty of simplicity 

Thomas Hardy 225 

and the heart of the humble, this passion for the native 
and the sincere, combined with the immensity of the 
stage on which the drama moves, that differentiates the 
Wessex tales from all other literature and suggests the 
elemental boldness of Norse legends Norse legends 
touched with the shadow of modern thought. 

But if he is the Millet of literature, he is Millet without 
the " Angelus." His peasants are bowed to the brown 
earth in the mystic light, but no far-off bell tolls a 
message through the quiet air. And without that 
message the parallel breaks down at the crucial point, 
for it was with that throb of the bell in the " Angelus " 
that Millet rang through the heart of the world and still 
rings. The laborious day is over, the grey sky still 
shadows the sombre plain ; but there is a rift in the 
west, and a word is borne to the tired heart on the 
pulsing air. Hope is not gone out of the world. 

" Life is ever Lord of Death," says Whittier, and with 
him all those whose eyes turn to the dawn. " Death is 
ever Lord of Life," says Hardy, and with him those 
whose eyes turn to the sun going down in pitiless gloom. 
It is the eternal conflict between the optimist and the 
pessimist, between " Yea " and " Nay," between the 
upward look and the downward. But the world is with 
those who, like Browning's Grammarian, are "for the 
morning" and sing with the lark, not with those who 
are of the dark and hear only the voices of the night. 

Mr Hardy would deny that a philosophy such as his, 
based upon an honest acceptance of facts as he observes 
them, has any serious relation to the capacity for personal 
joy. Happiness and gloom, he will tell you, are the 
product not of philosophy, but of individual temperament, 
which is unaffected by any theory of the governance or 


226 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

destiny of men. The Turkish lady quoted by Boswell 
put the view in another way when she said, " Ma foi, 
monsieur, notre bonheur depend de la fagon que notre 
sang circule." Mr Hardy has said truly that the human 
soul has normally less specific gravity than the sea of 
misery into which it is cast and emerges inevitably to the 
surface. So far as philosophy has any influence upon 
happiness, he believes that he is more truly happy who 
refuses the refuge of revelation he cannot prove and 
cultivates a reasoned serenity and fortitude on the basis 
of the perceived facts of life. For what he calls " the 
professional optimist" he has unaffected scorn. He 
reminds him of the smile on the face of a skull. 

If you have the good fortune to meet Thomas Hardy, 
you will certainly find him more cheerful than his philo- 
sophyan alert and knickerbockered man, pleasant and 
companionable, trotting through the streets of Dorchester, 
talking to its people, glad to show you the scenes his 
genius has made so memorable, and, having done, jump- 
ing lightly on his bicycle, in spite of his sixty-seven years, 
and riding away, leaving you a little puzzled that the 
wizard should be so like the plain man. But it is not the 
wizard,you have met. Him you will meet on the spacious 
heath under the night sky, by the gaunt ruin of Corfe 
Castle, wandering among the shadows that haunt the 
lonely barrow or on the cliffs hard by Lulworth Cove 
a presence subtle and pervasive, watching you with a 
thousand eyes, accompanying you with noiseless tread. 
For he has performed this miracle. He has printed 
himself so indelibly upon this Wessex country, has 
penetrated so deeply to its heart, that it seems to speak 
in his own accents. It is a world whose realities have 
become charged with the magic of his dreams. 

Photo by Klliott ?-' 



I LOVE to sit in the Gallery on a sleepy afternoon and 
watch Mr Henry Chaplin looking after the affairs of the 
Empire. Beside him, on the Front Opposition Bench, 
Mr Balfour reclines with an air of graceful indolence, 
and, beyond, Mr Walter Long gently dozes, his arms 
folded, his head sunk back upon the cushion, his ruddy 
October face giving a touch of warmth and colour to 
the scene. Perhaps Mr Austen Chamberlain sits up 
alert and watchful; but for the real picture of Britain 
guarding her own you must turn to Mr Chaplin. There 
is no laxity here. The afternoon may be drowsy and 
the cushioned seats seductive ; but the stern sentinel of 
Empire knows no rest. If the sun of Britain is to go 
down it shall not be because he slept. Let the enemy 
'ook to it : 

They shall find him 'ware and wakin', 
As they found him long ago. 

His eye is upon them in stern reproof of their knaveries. 
He seizes some paper and makes notes, not unconscious 
that the enemy are trembling visibly at the menace that 
overshadows them. He takes off his hat under the 
stress of emotion, and you are surprised at the youthful 
hue of the chestnut hair. He returns it resolutely and 
firmly to his brows. A new point has struck him : more 
notes : more craven fear opposite. 


228 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

He rises, and then what Jovian thunders echo round 
the House in sonorous reverberation ! With what pomp 
the portly platitude stalks forth to combat ! See the 
noble sweep of the right arm, the graceful handling 
of the cambric handkerchief, the fine fervour of the 
monocle. Hear the deep chest notes sink into un- 
imaginable depths under the burden of Britain's woes 
and Radical iniquities. You feel that he would weep 
but for the Spartan spirit that sustains him. 

For the splendid thing about Mr Chaplin is that he 
takes himself seriously. There, as Corporal Nym would 
say, is the humour of it. There is the respect that fills 
the House with joy at his rising and makes his florid 
flourishes so gay an interlude. It is not vanity in any 
mean or unworthy sense. It is the calm, ineradicable 
conviction of the governing class, the ancien regime. 
He is a statesman not by virtue of so dangerous and 
democratic a thing as intellect ; but by divine right, by 
right of blood and race. Brains may be necessary in 
business, but what you want in statesmanship, sir, is 
blood. It is blood that tells, sir. What is wrong with 
the House of Commons to-day is that there is not 
enough blood in it. Shopkeepers, lawyers, coal-miners, 
journalists, sitting here in the seats of the mighty, some 
of them even on the Front Bench opposite oh, sir, 
the pity of it ! Oh, my poor, misguided, fallen country ! 
But, sir and the portly frame distends with magna- 
nimity I will never desert her. I will never leave the 
burning deck. 

It is this portentous gravity and detachment from 
reality that make him, if not witty himself, the cause of 
wit in other men. He is not merely "a thing of beauty," 
but " a joy for ever." What moment, for example, ever 

Henry Chaplin 229 

rivalled the hilarity that shook the House when, speak- 
ing on the Old Age Pensions Bill, he declaimed, his 
left hand upon his heart, his right uplifted to the 
heavenly witness : "It has ever been the purpose of 
my life to do nothing that would sap the foundations 
of thrift among the poor." He paused, puzzled by the 
hurricane of laughter, for his mind moves with bucolic 
leisure, and it did not occur to him that his noble 
sentiment had any application to himself he, a gentle- 
man of blood and birth, whose career was a legend of 
splendid lavishness, and who, in his old age, honoured 
the State by receiving from it a trifling pension of 
.1200 a year, a mere bagatelle, a thank-offering, as it 
were, from a grateful public, almost, indeed, in the nature 
of conscience money. 

The incident revealed the true workings of a type of 
mind so remote from the thought of our day as to be 
well-nigh incredible. It is a type of mind that belongs 
to the eighteenth century. It sees society in two clearly 
defined strata a small, select aristocracy born booted 
and spurred to ride ; a large, dim mass born saddled and 
bridled to be ridden. It is a divine arrangement. Does 
not even the Catechism support this theory of human 
society by bidding you "to order yourself lowly and 
reverently toward your betters " ? He loves the poor in 
a fine old English way ; that is, he loves them from the 
point of view of a kindly Providence. They are poor by 
the grace of God, as he is an aristocrat by the same 
divine authority. I think he would probably spend his 
pension in scattering benefactions among his retainers. 
But it would never occur to him that they belonged to 
the same hemisphere as himself, that the moral code 
which was for them was for him also. Thrift, for 

230 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

example, is a noble thing in the labourer earning fifteen 
shillings a week; but thrift in a gentleman of blood, sir? 
God forbid ! For his view of the aristocracy is the 
view of the French lady in the days before the Revolu- 
tion, who, speaking of the vices of a certain nobleman 
and his prospective career in another world, said with 
reverent abasement, "But the Almighty will think 
twice before damning a gentleman of his quality." If 
Mr Chaplin ever reads Carlyle, how his heart must be 
stirred by that moving passage, probably the only one 
in all that turgid torrent that would be quite clear to his 
simple faith ! It is a faith which regards the established 
order of things as sacred and eternal. It is : therefore 
it ought to be. It is the view summed up by Thwackum 
in Tom Jones. " When I mention religion," said 
Thwackum, " I mean the Christian religion, and not only 
the Christian religion, but the Protestant religion, and 
not only the Protestant religion, but the Church of 

It is this view of the divinity that doth hedge his 
class that is the motive of his politics. He honestly 
believes that the greatness of England consists in the 
prosperity of a noble, landed caste. Hence his one 
serious contribution to legislation, the Agricultural 
Rates Bill, by which ingenious device the task of pay- 
ing the agricultural rates fell upon the towns with 
excellent results to the landlord's rent. Hence, too, his 
devotion to Protection, to which 

But this is a subject which should be approached with 
more solemnity. For it is here that Mr Chaplin must 
cease to be regarded as a politician. Rather he is a 
prophet. Through long, long years he was as one cry- 
ing in the wilderness. The giddy world passed him by, 

Henry Chaplin 231 

heeded not his message, laughed him and Mr " Jimmy " 
Lowther to scorn. " Give us a good thumping duty on 
corn," was their cry, " and all will be well. Then shall 
the clouds drop fatness, and England, our brave little 
England, be merry England once more." Fleeting 
hopes passed before their vision. " Reciprocity " and 
" Fair Trade " came like the cup ot Tantalus to the lip 
and vanished, and all again was dark, and the voice 
went on crying in the wilderness. But a day came 
when he who had been most scornful in his laughter 
at these antique jesters, suddenly saw a great light, 
suddenly saw that the way to make the people rich and 
happy was not to give them abundance, but scarcity, 
not to make things cheap, but dear. And, filled with this 
amazing marvel, he launched " My Policy " and changed 
the current of history. But it was the Squire of 
Blankney who was the prophet of the new dispensation ; 
it is the Squire of Blankney who, after years of derision 
and mocking laughter, sits to-day under his vine and 
fig-tree, contemplating the work of his hand, thinking 
over the solitary days when he was a voice crying in the 
wilderness, looking forward confidently to the time 
when a thumping duty on corn will make us all happy 
and hungry and rejoicing in the rare privilege of the 
prophet who has lived to see the acceptance of his 

It is a rare revenge for the blow that was dealt him 
in 1900, when, having served his Queen and country, as 
he would say in that noble rhetoric of his, with pru- 
dence, and he would hope with some success, he was 
oh, miserable, ungrateful world ! abandoned. Yes, 
abandoned. He, Henry Chaplin, left out of her 
Majesty's Ministry out in the cold, like a dog. Oh, 

232 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the bitterness of that day ! Not that he was sorry for 
himself, not at all ; but he mourned for his country, his 
betrayed and desolated country. 

For the sad truth has to be told that the prophet was 
never appreciated by his friends at his real worth. I 
am afraid that they did not take up Protection earlier, 
not because they were not Protectionists at heart, but 
because they feared that anything which Mr Chaplin 
advocated must be disastrous. They loved him as their 
licensed jester. They were grateful to him for his 
honest service, for the way he would plant his burly 
form in the breach when the enemy were nigh, as on 
that famous day of the Royal Hunt Cup, when the 
Conservative Government were in danger of defeat by a 
snap division, and he, like Horatius of old, rushed in to 
hold the bridge and save the town, and talked and 
talked and talked, while messengers hurried 


West and east and south and north, 
To summon the array, 

and never ceased until the fear that was written on the 
face of the Whips was turned to the gladness of con- 
scious victory. 

But while they appreciated these heroisms, they did 
not take him seriously. And yet no man ever worked 
harder at his task according to his capacity than he has 
done. A friend of his tells how he was once staying 
with him at a country house, and in the midst of con- 
versation Mr Chaplin excused himself on the ground of 
work. And later the friend, while wandering in the 
pastures, heard from the other side of the hedge a 
sonorous voice delivering itself thus : " Mr Speaker sir 
Little did I think, when I came down to the House 

Henry Chaplin 233 

this afternoon, that I should feel it incumbent upon me, 
in pursuance of my duty to my country, and, Mr Speaker, 

may I add to myself, to address this House upon " 

and the friend fled from the august recital. 

Mr Chaplin, however, bore the whips and scorns of 
colleagues with the gallant spirit with which he took his 
losses on the Turf. For the decline of his fortunes is 
understood to be not wholly due to the lack of the 
thumping duty on corn, but to that sport of gentlemen 
to which his really serious life has been devoted. Not 
that he has been without his triumphs. For is he 
not the Henry Chaplin, the owner of Hermit? And 
who that knows the Turf finds not in that name the 
music of the spheres ? Who knows not the brave story, 
that epic of the racehorse, of how the unknown horse 
flashed, on that June day, significantly heralded by a 
snowstorm, to victory in the Derby of 1867, winning for 
its owner ; 140,000 and a deathless fame. " Easy come, 
easy go," and Mr Chaplin's fortune went easily, for he 
is a man of delicate tastes, a Lucullus of the restaurant, 
who is reputed to know as much about the gastronomic 
art as he does about horseflesh, and more if that be 
possible than he does about politics, with whom a 
noble hospitality is innate, and in whom, as in Charles 
Surface, that " hobbling beldame Economy cannot keep 
pace with Generosity." He has the gift of spending, 
and leaves the duty of saving to the poor. It is not 
that he is a prodigal ; but that he has that princely point 
of view illustrated by the duke of whom Sir William 
Harcourt used to tell, who, having got into difficulties, 
applied for advice to Mr Greville, a friend of Sir 
William's. Mr Greville investigated the affairs of the 
duke, and he came to him and said : " Duke, I think your 

234 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

establishment is larger than it ought to be." And the 
duke said : " Really, Charles, do you think so ? " And 
Mr Greville said, " Yes. I find, for instance, you have 
got three confectioners in your kitchen. I think that is 
more than is indispensable." And the duke looked at 
him in great surprise, and he said : " You don't mean to 
say so ! Why, after all, a man must have a biscuit." 
That is Mr Chaplin's view. He must have a biscuit 

When Sleaford, forgetful of its long allegiance, forget- 
ful of the lustre shed upon it by Mr Chaplin, left him in 
the dtbdcle of 1906 at the bottom of the pole, he, with 
his long experience of the vicissitudes of fortune, took 
his coup de grdce with his habitual good temper, and 
gave to Wimbledon the distinction of being represented 
in Parliament by the owner of Hermit. It is an honour 
well fitted to Wimbledon. 

Age cannot wither him, nor custom stale. He lingers 
on into these drab, prosaic times, a glorious reminiscence 
of the days of the dandies, defying the machinations 
alike of time and of the Radicals, cheerful and debonair, 
his ample hat sitting on his head with just a suspicion 
of a sporting angle, his cambric peeping from his breast 
pocket with a subtle suggestion of gallantry, his eye- 
glass worn as if to the manner born ; a kindly, simple- 
hearted gentleman, with the spacious manners of an 
earlier day slightly exaggerated ; a mirror in which we 
may see the England of long ago and the Toryism that 
is dead, or, if not dead, passed into a shape less reputable 
because less honest. Long may we see him, the last of 
his type, sitting on the Front Opposition Bench taking 
notes and watching over the Empire, a pleasant figure 
of industrious futility. We could better spare a greater 

rhoto l>j, /:. II. Mills To/acc />. 235 



BISHOP CREIGHTON wrote the History of the Papacy ; 
his successor preached on When it was Dark. The 
fact is significant of much. We hear a good deal to-day 
of the poverty of the Church. The poverty is real ; 
but it is not the poverty of money: it is the poverty 
of men. The Church shares the national bankruptcy. 
We may say of England, much more truly than Cassius 
said of Rome, that we have " lost the breed of noble 
blood." We are travelling across the plains. There 
is no peak on the sky-line of our vision. There is no 
personality that stirs our emotion, or excites our ex- 
pectation. We have much cleverness, much energy, 
much talent ; but we have no great men. We are an 
army without leaders. Johnson said of Burke that you 
could not meet him casually sheltering from a shower of 
rain without discovering that you were in the presence 
of a man of genius. Though the rain pelted down 
to-day over all the British islands, it is doubtful whether 
it would drive a single man of genius of this generation 
to shelter. " No birds were flying overhead : there were 
no birds to fly." 

In this intellectual impoverishment the Church of 
England has more than its due share. Some twenty-five 
years ago it echoed to the sound of great voices. Light- 
foot was at Durham, Westcott and Magee at Peter- 


236 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

borough, Temple at London, Stanley at Westminster, 
Liddon at St Paul's, Hort at Cambridge, Tait at Canter- 
bury. They were like beacon lights in the land. To- 
day the darkness is lit with feeble and uncertain lamps. 
Dr Percival, Canon Barnett, and Dr Gore alone have 
the ear of the nation, and two of them belong to the 
past generation rather than the present, and none rises 
to true greatness. Among the younger men no figure 
emerges more considerable than that of the Bishop of 
Stepney, an astute ecclesiastic, or Canon Hensley Henson, 
an erratic and indeterminate quantity. The Church is 
poor indeed. It seems to have lost its attraction for the 
best minds even of an inconspicuous time. 

Arthur Foley Winnington-Ingram is therefore typical 
of his generation. When he preached on Guy Thome's 
shallow novel, he reflected the poverty of the thought 
of the Church, just as Mr Hall Caine reflects the 
poverty of literature and drama, or Lord Northcliffe 
the poverty of journalism, or Mr Austen Chamberlain 
the poverty of politics. We are in the backwash of 
the intellectual tide, and the Bishop of London is with 
us. We feed ourselves on thin, emotional gruel, and 
the Bishop of London shares our food. 

And yet it might be claimed for him that though he 
is not a great man, he is a great Bishop. For there 
are two kinds of episcopal greatness. There is the 
intellectual greatness which stamps itself upon the 
mind of the Church. Such was the greatness of Tait. 
And there is a certain administrative greatness and 
personal magnetism which quicken the diocese and 
touch the heart of the crowd. And such is the great- 
ness of Bishop Ingram. Long ago Selden stated the 
functions of a bishop. " For bishops to preach," he 

The Bishop of London 237 

said, " 'tis to do other folks' office, as if the steward 
should execute the porter's or the cook's place. 'Tis 
his business to see that they and all others about 
the house perform their duties." Dr Ingram offends 
against this law by preaching constantly ; but he fulfils 
the latter part of it perhaps better than any man of his 
time. He is a great steward of the Church. 

He is a great bishop, too, in the sense that he is a 
great Christian. His heart is filled with the love of his 
fellow men, but most of all with love of the poor. From 
the days when he left Lichfield and came to the Oxford 
House Settlement in the East End, he has given him- 
self to the cause of the disinherited and the miserable. 
Slumming to him has been no idle diversion. It has 
been his vocation, his life. Into it he has poured all the 
wealth of a boundless joy, of a nature all sunshine and 
generous emotion. He as much as any man of our time 
has realised that if you would reach the souls of men 
you must first care for their bodies, heal their sores, 
lessen their miseries. And, full of this primitive law of 
the faith, he has carried the cup of cold water to the lips 
of the dying girl in the garret, laboured to drain the 
morass of the slum, lived his days and his nights among 
the forsaken and the hopeless. And then, his heart full 
of the goodness of the poor rather than of contempt of 
their squalor, he has gone down to Oxford to call others 
into the same harvest field. " It was an address he 
gave when I was an undergraduate," said a friend of 
mine to me, "that brought me here ten years ago to 
live in the slums. I thank God for it." Or he has 
gone out into Victoria Park to meet the atheists face to 
face ; answer their pet posers with ready wit, and win 
their hearts by his genial comradeship. 

238 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

He is not a humorist, but he has the gift of inexhaust- 
ible good-humour. " I enjoy," he says, " every minute 
of my work, every minute." And he has the happy 
answer ever ready to turn the attack. "Please, sir," 
said the Sunday-school child when he had asked the 
class for questions " please, sir, why did the angels 
walk up and down Jacob's ladder when they had wings?" 
" Ah," said the Bishop, " very good indeed ! Now would 
any little boy or girl here like to answer that question ? " 
He is not afraid to stoop to conquer. Careless of his 
boots and his toes, he learned " the foot and door trick," 
as he calls it, in order to penetrate impenetrable homes. 
" After long hesitation," he says in his Work in Great 
Cities, " the door will be opened about half a foot by a 
little girl ; you will hear a distant voice from the washtub 
in the rear, ' Well, Sally, who is it ? ' Then Sally will 
answer at the top of her voice, ' Please, mother, it's 
religion.' " 

It is the defect of the average Church dignitary 
that he is remote from the people, dwells in another 
atmosphere, talks another language. Dr Ingram thinks 
their thoughts, talks their speech, is one of themselves. 
He is a man who 

Hails you " Tom" or "Jack," 

And shows by thumping on your back 

How he esteems your merit. 

And he does it without offence. If he digs you in the 
ribs and tells you to " Buck up," you do " buck up." 
If he lends you his greatcoat or gives you " a lift " going 
down to Poplar, you have no feeling of being patronised. 
He is one of yourselves. He is a " pal." He does not fill 
you with the sense of the awful respectability of religion. 
He fills you with the sense of its good fellowship. 

The Bishop of London 239 

And so he warms the hearts of men where his gaitered 
brethren too often freeze them. Take that incident at 
the Church Congress at Northampton a serried rank 
of solemn bishops and deans facing a crowd of North- 
ampton shoemakers. Could the force of contrast further 
go? Could anything bridge the gulf between? Could 
anything warm this Arctic atmosphere? Suddenly a 
light, athletic figure, face clean shaven, eyes twinkling 
with merriment, stepped forward and began to talk of 
his life in the East End. It was the Bishop of London. 

" I remember," said he, " my first Sunday in Bethnal 
Green. I addressed a meeting of 500 men, and at the 
end of the service I said to them : ' Well, now, what 
shall we talk about next Sunday?' And immediately 
500 voices yelled out : ' Eternal punishment.' That was 
a nice little subject to hurl at a young man who was out 
' on his own ' for the first time in his life. And then, of 
course, they wanted to know who was Cain's wife they 
always do. Well, we settled that question, and we 
buried the poor old lady in Bethnal Green, once and 
for all." The bishops and the deans looked grave 
and pained, but the shoemakers were won. The gulf 
between platform and hall was bridged, and the solemn 
dignitaries could cross with ease. 

It is this breezy intimacy that has made him win a 
hearing for religion among those who are indifferent or 
who regard it as an enemy. " Look at 'em ! Just look 
at 'em ! " said the 'bus driver, waving his whip towards 
the crowd gathered round the Bishop, preaching from the 
open-air pulpit at St James's, Piccadilly. " I ain't re- 
ligious, mind you, and I can't stomach parsons. They're 
fair pizen to me ; but 'im well, 'e's different. There's 
something 'uman about 'im. I've 'card 'im down East 

240 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

many a time, and I tell you, when you've been a-listening 
to 'im for a bit a kind of clean feeling takes 'old on you, 
same's if it was your day off and you'd "ad a bath and 
got your Sunday suit on." 

And he has the same easy access to the rich as to the 
poor. " Bishop," said the stockbrokers who gathered 
round him after he had preached to them at Wall Street : 
"Bishop" and they grasped his hand "you've made 
us feel real good." Then I have no doubt that they 
went back cheerfully to the business of rooking their 

He does not divorce preaching and practice. What 
is good for others is good for him. What he would have 
others do he first does himself. And so, when he 
preaches temperance, he does not follow the example of 
Bishop Moorhouse of Manchester, who, I remember, 
once opened a temperance speech with the declaration, 
" I am not a teetotaler" an affirmation which effectually 
froze the meeting. When Dr Ingram, discussing temper- 
ance, was asked by a workman, " Are you a ' tot ' ? " his 
reply was, " Of course I am." " All right, then," came 
the reply ; " fire away. We'll listen to you." 

He has little erudition, and less theology ; but he has 
the religion of service and sacrifice, and it is the only 
religion that counts. " The best argument for religion," 
said Mark Guy Pearse, " is six foot of Christianity." It 
is the argument that Dr Ingram employs. And where- 
ever he goes he carries the sunshine with him. For he 
has the unconquerable optimism of the man who in 
giving himself for others finds the miasma of vain 
questioning vanish from his own sky. Solvitur laborando. 
If you would be a pessimist, sit in your study at Ken- 
sineton and think about the horrors of the East End. 


The Bishop of London 241 

Do not go and live and work in the East End. Pess- 
imism perishes in the East End, for pessimism is the 
poisonous fruit of brooding and optimism the gracious 
flower of service. 

It is perhaps to be regretted that the Bishop of 
Stepney ever became the Bishop of London. He is, as 
I have said, a great steward of the Church. His labours 
never cease. " I do all my reading and most of my 
writing here," he will tell you. as you sit in his brougham 
in the light of his electric reading lamp. He rises early, 
retires late, lives sparingly, is poorer than when he had 
a tenth of his present income, fills every day with a 
hundred duties, and applies his two maxims, " Worth 
while " and " Don't be afraid to be human," to every one 
of them. But his true sphere is Bethnal Green Road, 
and the life of the mean streets that he loves and knows 
and has transformed. He is too light an intellectual 
weight for statesmanship or the leadership of thought. 
His excursions into politics are jejune, his point of view 
too narrowly ecclesiastical. One likes to think of him 
not in the House of Lords defending indefensible 
privileges, but as the parish priest in the East End, 
living the life, fighting for the faith, and carrying the 
sunshine of his happy spirit into the sunless homes of 
the forlorn and the miserable. 



AT an Eighty Club dinner not long ago I was seated 
beside the Chairman, who chanced to be Mr Herbert 
Samuel. It was what is known as a House Dinner an 
occasion of more or less informal debate on a given 
political subject of the moment. Those who desire to 
speak are requested to send up their names to the 
steward, who, on this occasion, was myself. As invari- 
ably happens at Eighty Club functions, there was an 
abundance of men ready to talk, for political speaking 
is the raison d'etre of the Club. The names were put 
down in order and handed to the Chairman. He took 
them, and, turning to me, said, " You will speak." I 
replied that I had no intention of speaking. " Oh yes," 
said Mr Samuel, "you must speak." And he inserted 
my name high up on the list. I laughed and took an 
opportunity of putting my pen through the name. He 
smiled, took up his pen, and restored it. " I am serious," 
I said. " So am I," he replied. When the list was 
exhausted as far as my name I said, " Please pass my 
name." Without turning he announced me to follow. 
And I obeyed. 

I do not mention this incident in any spirit of retalia- 
tion, but because it illustrates the character of Mr 
Herbert Samuel better than anything I can recall. He 

is implacable and masterful a man clothed in a suit of 


Herbert Samuel 243 

impenetrable mail. Argument is wasted on him, en- 
treaty breaks helplessly at the foot of his frozen purpose. 
He hears your arguments with a polite air of having 
heard all of them from the beginning and found them 
worthless. He listens to your appeals with the chill 
calm of an iceberg. It would be easier, I think, to 
extract tears from the Cromwell statue than to extract 
from Mr Samuel a concession which he did not wish to 

If one were asked to find the antithesis of Mr Balfour 
in the House of Commons, one would turn, I think, to 
Mr Samuel. With Mr Balfour all is vague and formless. 
There is nothing fixed and absolute. He is stricken 
with the paralysis of indecision. Mr Samuel, on the 
other hand, makes decision a habit of mind. I imagine 
he has a settled conviction about everything under the 
sun. He is one of those men whose minds are always 
" made up." You do not see them in the process of being 
" made up." It is as though they were " made up " to 
start with on the basis of some absolute formula which 
leaves nothing more to be said. Everything is chose 
jugee. In Mr Samuel's precise and profusely pigeon- 
holed mind there is no room for hesitation about conclu- 
sions, because there is no room for doubt about facts. 

There is nothing of the Oriental man of mystery 
about Mr Samuel ; but one would have to search long 
and industriously to discover the reality that dwells 
behind this perfectly equipped defence. Most men 
have their moments of unofficial freedom moments, 
after dinner, for example, when they throw off the mask 
and delight to be gloriously indiscreet. Holmes says 
that every man has two doors to himself, one which he 
keeps open to the world, and another through which only 

244 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the privileged are permitted to enter, or which is opened 
in moments of deep feeling or generous confidence. In 
the case of Mr Samuel one feels that the key rusts in the 
lock of that secret door. " He has made discretion into 
a fine art," said one of his colleagues to me. 

He is the type of efficiency. There is no more 
industrious man in the Ministry, none whom you find 
more completely equipped in knowledge or in clear-cut, 
decisive opinion. No matter what subject you raise 
bearing on his department, you find that this un- 
demonstrative, wise young man is prepared to crush 
you with Blue Books you have never heard of, and 
experiences of places where you have never been. 
When I met him at the Sweated Industries Exhibition, 
the impression left was that of a man who had nothing 
to learn on the subject He had studied it in the East 
End ; he had studied it on the Continent years before ; 
he could tell you more than you could ever hope to 
know. You felt humbled and cheap. 

In this enormous capacity for mastering the details 
of a subject, this enthusiasm for the letter, as it were, he 
is typical of his race. The genius of the Jew is the 
genius for taking infinite pains. He may lack inspira- 
tion, but his power of application, his mastery of the 
letter, gives him a knowledge that is more potent than 
inspiration. Where the " book " is concerned, he is 
unrivalled. He stakes out a " claim " with calculating 
confidence, and develops it with an unremitting industry 
and an unimpassioned concentration that assure success. 
He gets up his subject with a thoroughness that the 
Englishman rarely imitates. Lasker has not the 
fascination of Morphy, or even of Pillsbury ; but he is 
the greatest chess-player that ever lived, for he " knows " 

Herbert Samuel 245 

chess as no man ever knew it before. The Jew rarely 
produces great art or great music ; but he is supreme in 
his knowledge of those realms. It is nearly always a Jew 
who is the expert Shakespearean scholar, just as it is 
always a Jew who will decide the authenticity of a Van 
Eyck or a Botticelli. When one of the Rothschilds ad- 
vised Buxton on his career, he warned him against scatter- 
ing his energies. " Concentration," he said, " is the one 
road to success in business ; dispersion the one certainty 
of failure. Stick to brewing and you will be the first 
brewer in London. Take up banking, shipping, 
commerce, and your name will soon appear in the 
Gazette" It was the Jew revealing the secret of the 
astonishing success of his race. 

Mr Samuel's faculty for mastering detail was revealed 
in the Children's Bill, which Mr Gladstone surrendered 
entirely to his hands. No more humane measure has 
ever been before Parliament, and certainly Parliament 
never saw a measure more ably handled, both in the 
House and in Committee. It was impossible to find 
a flaw in the workmanship, and Mr Samuel's skill in 
Committee won the rare distinction of a dinner in 
honour of his success. It was the success of one who 
has in remarkable combination the suaviter in modo 
and the fortiter in re. He is thrice armed, for he adds 
to knowledge rare astuteness and blameless temper. It 
is impossible to trip him up, either in fact or in feeling. 
He has the enormous advantage of always knowing 
more about his subject than his opponent, and that is 
a great aid to cheerfulness of temper. " There are two 
ways of governing men," said Disraeli in one of his novels. 
" Either you must be superior to them, or despise them." 
Mr Samuel has adopted the better way. 

246 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

His philosophy of conduct, I take it, is similar to that 
of Mr Chamberlain. It was the practice of Mr Cham- 
berlain to come into counsel with everything cut and 
dried. It was his role to "put things through." He 
knew that men are always ready to follow anyone 
who will tell them what to do. " I see how things go 
in the Cabinet," said Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman 
on one occasion, after he had been called in by Lord 
Salisbury to advise in regard to some Royal and non- 
party question. " Lord Salisbury explains that nothing 
can be done, and that, even if anything could be done, 
it would probably be a miserable failure. And then he 
calls on Mr Balfour to say a few words, and Mr Balfour 
invests the subject with a delicate haze, after which : 
' Perhaps the Colonial Secretary has a suggestion/ says 
the Premier. And Mr Chamberlain comes forward 
prompt and practical, with his scheme down in black 
and white, and his mind made up, and the thing is 
done." As in the Cabinet, so on committees and 
councils of all sorts. One of the governors of the 
Birmingham University tells that on one occasion Mr 
Chamberlain startled the meeting by saying that what 
the University wanted was a Siena tower. " A Siena 
tower ! " exclaimed his colleagues in alarm. " What we 
want is a chair for this and a chair for that, and 
" What we want is a Siena tower," said Mr Chamberlain 
icily, as though he were speaking through the twittering 
of sparrows, " and " putting his hand in his pocket 
"to save time I have had some drawings prepared." 
And, says the informant, we found ourselves outside 
half an hour later, having agreed to the erection of a 
Siena tower which none of us wanted, at a cost of 
50,000, which we hadn't got, and which we needed 

Herbert Samuel 247 

for the equipment of the University. Those who have 
acted on committees with Mr Samuel will recognise the 
likeness. He also comes, as it were, with his design for 
a Siena tower in his pocket. He does not say much. 
He is quiet and unobtrusive as the talk wanders on 
around him. Then, at the perfectly chosen moment, he 
interposes with chill incisiveness and enormous gravity, 
and you feel that an end has come to the vapourings of 
irresponsible frivolity. Perhaps you feel that the in- 
cisiveness is studied and the gravity a little excessive ; 
but that does not diminish the impression. A keen 
blade has been suddenly run through a bag of idle wind. 

He conveys no impression of enthusiasm and is as 
free from passion as an oyster. He will never give his 
leader or his party a moment's disquiet, for he will never 
depart a hair's-breadth from the path of strict correcti- 
tude. He says exactly the right word in exactly the 
right accent. His work is done without a flaw, and if 
his manner lacks a little the spontaneous warmth that 
takes men captive, it has the unruffled and considered 
courtesy that sheds a certain grave decorum, not to say 
solemnity, over your intercourse. " Manners," said 
Emerson, " were invented to keep fools at a distance," 
and though Mr Samuel would not put it so crudely as 
that, he probably agrees with the sentiment. 

I have been told by one who was a comrade of his 
in childhood that his favourite amusement was politics, 
and that when other boys were reading Ballantyne he 
was reading Blue Books. For him, indeed, one can 
conceive no 

youth of roselight and romance wherein 
He dreamt of paynim and of paladin 

no time when he cherished a sentiment or coquetted 

248 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

with an illusion. One can imagine him as a boy at 
University College School planning out his future with 
the quiet certitude of a mathematical mind engaged on 
an easy negotiable proposition, and, having planned it, 
working silently and unceasingly for its accomplishment. 
It is characteristic of his assured restraint that, ambitious 
as he is, he has never sought to force the pace of his 
progress. No extravagance of speech or action is ever 
associated with his carefully considered career. He does 
not thrust himself into the limelight. He is content to 
be forgotten. He knows the power of discreet silence 
as the man of taste knows the value of the blank space 
on the wall. 

Among the potentialities of the Liberalism of the 
future he and Mr Masterman are, perhaps, the most 
considerable. They represent respectively the science 
and the sentiment of politics sense and sensibility. 
The one is intellect ; the other emotion. It would be 
hazardous to cast the horoscope of Mr Masterman. 
He is the wind that bloweth where it listeth, indifferent 
to theories, impatient of slow processes, governed only 
by a compelling passion for humanity the dreamer of 
dreams and the seer of visions. Mr Samuel's path is as 
defined and absolute as a geometrical line. He is the 
artificer of politics, confident of his aim, master of him- 
self and his materials, secure in his opinion, inflexible in 
purpose a splendidly efficient instrument, but never an 

Photo />jf Beresford 

7 o face p. 249 



WHEN Mr Balfour said that what he did not like about 
Dr Clifford was his " style," he expressed the vital 
difference between himself and his critic. They are as 
East and West, " and never the twain shall meet" Mr 
Balfour lives in an atmosphere of aesthetic emotion, 
delicately sensuous, soft, and languorous. One pictures 
him on a couch of rose-leaves in a chamber where the 
colour harmonies are perfect and no fierce disturbing 
light breaks in. The air is soft and aromatic, and from 
behind the curtains comes the tender breathing of lute 
and viol. He feels a harsh note like a blow ; a false 
accent in voice or colour or gesture afflicts him with 
physical distress. One would expect him to flee, hands 
to ears, from the violence of Tchaikowsky or the poig- 
nant humanity of Beethoven, and to find refuge in the 
dream world of Chopin or the Watteau landscapes of 
Gluck. To such a temperament, life is neither a tragedy 
nor a comedy : it is an emotion. It is not a battle, but a 
dream vision ; not a shattering reality, but a tone poem. 
Into that atmosphere the Puritan bursts like a bomb- 
shell in the garden of old Khayyam. He is terribly in 
earnest, and there is nothing so distressing to the aesthete 
as earnestness. You cannot have a flawless tone poem 
with an earnest man about. You cannot enjoy your 
book of verse beneath the bough if a fierce person 

250 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

breaks in upon you with violent gesticulations, declaring 
that the City of Destruction is in flames and that you 
have got to go and help with the fire-engine. 

To the Puritan, life is not an emotion to be enjoyed, 
but a conflict to be won, and he distrusts those sensuous 
decorations that distract the mind from the spiritual 
warfare. He is happiest when the battle is fiercest, and 
I can imagine that Dr Clifford must sometimes lament 
that he was born two and a half centuries too late. 
Had he lived in the great days of the Puritans, 
how joyously would he have had his ears cropped, 
with what hymns and psalms and spiritual songs he 
would have rushed to battle, and, when the victory was 
won, what sermons he would have preached as the sun 
went down on the carnage of the battle-field ! Crom- 
well's eye would have singled him out for swift promotion. 
He would have been one of those " russet-coated cap- 
tains " whom he loved. He would have had him by 
him when he told the Rev. Mr Hytch in Ely Cathedral 
to " cease his fooling and come down," and I see him 
in the grey dawn of that day at Dunbar turning to him 
to give the keynote of the battle song, and young 
Clifford now a colonel of the Ironsides lifts his voice: 

Let God arise and scatter-ed 
Let all his enemies be. 

He would have sat in judgment at Whitehall upon 
" the man, Charles Stuart," and would have spent his 
old age in preaching secretly in out-of-the-way con- 
venticles, in prison oft, in the pillory and the stocks 
more often, harried from parish to parish, a stern, 
invincible old warrior waiting for the return of the 
saints and keeping the lamp trimmed and burning 
through the riotous night of the Restoration. 

Dr Clifford 251 

He is the last of the Puritans. When Oxford and 
Cambridge opened their doors to Dissenters they ended 
the true Puritan strain. They infused into its strenuous 
intensity the subtle influences of an atmosphere of taste 
and culture. They softened the severe outlines, added 
light and shade, nuance and tone, where formerly the 
character was simple and sharply defined. To grace in 
the Puritan sense they have added the graces in the 
Cavalier sense. 

Dr Clifford is the type of the Nonconformist minister 
of the old days of proscription and disability, with all 
the merits and all the defects of the stern school out of 
which he came. He is a man who has carved himself 
with his own jack-knife his University, Cassell's Popular 
Educator, which he bought in penny numbers and his 
rugged personality bears the splendid impress of that 
unaided workmanship. He came from the people, and 
he belongs to the people in a sense in which, perhaps, he 
could not have belonged had not the Catechism stood in 
his path to Oxford. For when the little son of the warp 
machiner at Sawley, in Derbyshire, was sent to the 
National School, the master, attracted by his capacity, 
promised to get him to Oxford. But the Puritan father 
was not to be bribed by Oxford. He would have no 
Catechisms taught his son. " John," he would say, " I'll 
not have you tell a lie. You must not talk of your 
godfathers and godmothers when you haven't got any." 
And so, instead of going to Oxford, he went, at the age 
of ten, into a lace mill, where he advanced from the 
position of a " jacker off " to that of a " thredder." " As 
thredder," he will tell you, " I had to work in a gang 
preparing the ' carriages ' and the ' bobbins ' for the big 
machines. If we fell behind, the machines would be 

252 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

delayed, so that we often had to keep at it far into the 
night, with the foreman setting one gang to compete 
with another. Our food was sent to us from home 
coffee in a tin, bread with a bit of cheese, perhaps, or 
butter, though butter seldom, for we still felt the effect 
of the Corn Laws. Meat possibly once a week." It 
was a hard school, in which the character was hammered 
out strong, real, and enduring, or shattered in the process. 
But if he is the last of the Puritans in character, equip- 
ment, and temperament, he has none of the harshness 
of the Calvinist theology. He is all for the sanctity of 
conscience and the right of private judgment in the 
affairs of the soul. He will impose no creeds on anyone, 
not even on his Church. His one faith is still as clear 
and primitive as when, sixty years ago, he sat a boy in 
Beeston Chapel, in " much mental anguish," and in his 
own words experienced conversion in the midst of the 
singing of the verse : 

The soul that longs to see My face 

Is sure My love to gain ; 
And those that early seek My grace 

Shall never seek in vain. 

But he is for the spirit and not for the letter. He will 
not make his own faith the measure of his neighbour's, 
and when Charles Spurgeon began his " Downgrade " 
controversy, and sought to rivet anew the Calvinistic 
dogma on the Baptist Church, it was John Clifford, then 
President of the Baptist Union, who fought the battle of 
liberation and won. " I do not object to creeds as state- 
ments of belief," he said. " It is coercion through and 
by creeds that I object to." He was willing, and even 
assisted, to formulate a declaration of the Church's faith ; 
but beyond that he would not go. He would not apply 

Dr Clifford 253 

it as a test to the individual conscience. " Creed " or 
" Declaration " became the issue, and Spurgeon passed 
out of the Baptist Church with his Calvinist doctrines 
and his assertion of the verbal inspiration of the Bible, 
while Dr Clifford remained within victorious. And so, 
when Mr Campbell raised the waters with his " New 
Theology," it was Dr Clifford, almost alone among Non- 
conformist leaders, who took his stand by him, in 
sympathy not with his views, but with liberty of thought. 
Hatred of creeds and passion for the freedom of an 
awakened conscience are the two motives that actuate 
him. " How long is it," asks Holmes, " since religion 
was such an invalid that it could only go out in a closed 
carriage with a gentleman in a black suit and a white tie 
on the box ? " Dr Clifford insists that religion is an active 
pedestrian who wants plenty of light and moorland 
air. He will not sit on the box, nor wear a white tie, 
nor call himself " Reverend," nor name any man heretic. 
He believes, with Kenan's Ebrew Jew, that On fait ce 
quon veut, mats on croit ce quon peut. He has no 
fear of consequences if only men will think. It is not 
unbelief, but non-belief; not the conscience that questions, 
but the conscience that is atrophied, that he assails. 
" Think for yourselves," he cries. "If you find that it is 
not rational to be a Christian, then be not a Christian ; 
but reflect well before you decide." He is the antithesis 
of those Christians who, in Swift's phrase, have "just 
enough religion to hate each other." He is all tolerance. 
He does not deliver the land from an infallible throne ; 
but comes down, as it were, into the market-place and 
talks the thing out with you, a plain man like yourself, 
offering you his opinion and seeking yours. Hence his 
attraction for all sorts and conditions of men, his long 

254 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

friendship with Freethinkers like Holyoake, and his 
monthly " Question- Nights," when he meets all assailants 
on a common ground, not avoiding contradiction, but 
seeking it. "You must understand a man's doctrine 
before you attack it " is his axiom. 

He has the serenity and the unconquerable optimism 
of the man who believes in the moral sovereignty of 
the world. " Personalities pass and disappear," he cries, 
" but the principle of justice is eternal. Ignorant men 
may nail it to the Cross, but the third day it rises again 
and mounts to heaven." And this triumph of the 
spirit of righteousness is reflected in the life ot men. 
" Our lecturer thinks the world is getting better," said a 
Social Democrat at the close of an address. " Now, I 
don't think it is." " But I know it is," replied Dr 
Clifford. " I know that when I was eleven I was called 
at six o'clock in the morning to go and work twelve or 
fourteen hours in a lace factory, and I know that no 
boy of eleven will be called at six to-morrow morning 
to be forced to work in any factory in the land." 

His mind is all daylight. There are no subtle half- 
tones, or sensitive reserves, or significant shadows of 
silence ; no landscape fading through purple mists to 
a romantic distance. All is clear, obvious, emphatic. 
There is little atmosphere and a lack of that humour 
that softens the contours of cotroversy. His thought 
is direct and simple, and makes its appeal, not to 
culture, but to the primitive emotions. He is probably 
the best popular orator in England. The strenuous- 
ness which is so distasteful to Mr Balfour is a battle- 
cry to the crowd. He keeps his passion white hot ; 
his body works like a windmill in a hurricane ; his 
eyes flash lightnings ; he seizes the enemy, as it were, 

Dr Clifford 255 

by the throat, pommels him with breathless blows, and 
throws him aside a miserable wreck. In the pulpit his 
slight, bent form moves restlessly to and fro : he fixes 
someone with his glittering eye ; argues with him, as it 
were ; wrestles with him ; poses him with questions ; 
draws back to make a point ; leaps forward, and ex- 
plodes. Punch declares that he wears two cravats, 
one in front and one behind, so that in the midst of his 
passionate speeches the one behind can take the place 
of that in front. In the case of a long speech the 
cravat behind recovers its position in front, having made 
a complete tour of the Doctor. This, of course, is an 
exaggeration ; but he is energetic. 

This moral and intellectual strenuousness makes him 
the symbol of all that is hateful to the foe. He is 
pictured as a bitter, intolerant, assertive man. He is, 
in fact, one of the gentlest, most humble-minded men I 
have ever known, simple and unaffected, merry as a 
child and delighting in children, easily imposed on by 
the melting tale, overflowing with generous sympathy, 
entirely free from all personal bitterness. It is the 
custom of the meaner part of the Press to gibe at his 
degree, to represent him as a charlatan flaunting a sham 
honour. " Dr " indeed ! Does it come from Oxford or 
Cambridge? Not at 'all. From Bates University, in 
the United States. And at the oft-told tale there is 
a gust of scornful laughter. And there's an end of 
"Dr" Clifford. 

It is a foolish and ungenerous taunt. If Oxford and 
Cambridge have not offered him the honour, so much 
the worse for Oxford and Cambridge. He does not ask 
it, did not ask it of Bates University, has never himself 
used it. But what man of our time has a higher claim 

256 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

to recognition from any seat of learning or worth? 
What story is more fascinating, more full of wholesome 
stimulus, than that of his eager pursuit of knowledge 
under difficulties working in the mill all day, studying 
far into the night ; taking now a youth his theological 
course at Leicester, and, having started on that fifty 
years' ministry at Westbourne Park, not sinking down 
into a comfortable rut, but setting out bravely to London 
University to lay the foundations that circumstances 
had denied him. And well he laid them, working all 
the time at his pastorate B.A. in 1861 ; B.Sc., with 
honours in Logic, Moral Philosophy, Geology, and 
Palaeontology, in 1862 ; M.A., first of his year, in 1864; 
LL.B., with honours in the Principles of Legislation, in 

Nothing to blush for here, is there? And then add 
to it those fifty years spent in tireless and unselfish 
labour for all noble human causes ; in the front rank of 
every fight against tyranny and intolerance, whether in 
the spiritual or the political sphere, whether in London 
or Africa ; loving truth and justice even more than 
religion and piety ; a great citizen, a great patriot; 
spending himself ungrudgingly for the reward of a head 
clerk ; as poor at the end, save for the modest compe- 
tence presented to him by his admirers on his seventieth 
birthday, as at the beginning. " What is your fee ? " 
asked the secretary at the close of a lecture in a remote 
part of England. " My third-class fare," he answered. 

There are few lives that one would rather have lived 
than this a life rich in unselfish service that has 
kept his roots watered and his branches green, so true 
is it that " what I gave I have." You may dislike his 
style, you may find the note too strident for your 

Dr Clifford 257 

sensitive taste, you may resent the moral maxim and 
the passionate truism ; but do not pride yourself upon 
living in the atmosphere of an artificial culture in which 
no man of breeding talks of principles, and in which the 
ripeness of emotion passes insensibly into the rottenness 
of moral decadence. For there is a far worse cant than 
the cant of sincerity, and that is the cant of culture. No 
nation was ever kept sweet and vital by moral opiates, 
and it is because he is the most bracing tonic in a time 
of moral slackness that John Clifford ranks among the 
chief assets of our day. 


IT was at the memorable meeting at the Albert Hall 
at which Sir Henry Campbell-Bannerman made his 
first public utterance as Prime Minister that the mean- 
ing of the women's war dawned on me. There had 
been one or two preliminary skirmishes, at Manchester 
and again at the Queen's Hall. But here was the first 
general engagement. The time was well chosen. The 
spirit of that meeting can never be recaptured in our 
day. It was the hour of triumph, a moment such as 
one cannot look for twice in a lifetime. The Balfour 
Parliament was dead at last. The long reign of 
Toryism was over and Liberalism was born again 
after twenty years of obliteration, qualified by one feeble 
flicker of office without power. We stood on the 
threshold of a new time. All the nightmare of the 
war and Chinese serfdom, of adventure abroad and 
wrong at home, was behind. We looked, as it were, 

an arch, wherethrough 
Gleams the untravelled world. 

It was like a vast thanksgiving as, after long years in 
the wilderness, the exiles entered the land of promise. 
Suddenly I became conscious that something unusual 
was happening. There was a murmur below, as though 

a light breeze had ruffled the great sea of humanity 



To face p. 258 

Mrs Pankhurst 259 

that filled the area. All eyes were turned from the 
platform to a point in the boxes near me. I looked 
out and my eyes encountered, hanging from the box 
next but one to mine, a banner with the legend, " Votes 
for Women." It was the signal of a new attack in 
the rear. Another Richmond was in the field. The 
Tory host was in ruins ; but the Amazons were upon us. 

Now, whatever may be our private views as to the 
campaign of the militant women, we cannot deny that 
it revealed quite brilliant generalship. It may not 
have been magnificent, but it was war. It was ex- 
tremely " unladylike." the exaltation was sometimes 
unpleasantly like hysteria, the drama often bordered 
on the wildest farce. Occasionally there was the sense 
of an astonishing lack of humour, as when some of 
the Suffragettes lashed themselves to the railings in 
Downing Street The world would have said that that 
was typically feminine, but for the fact that as an 
achievement in futility it was easily surpassed by the 
police, who, instead of leaving them in the pit they 
had digged for themselves, solemnly rescued them and 
then put them in the lock-up. 

But with all its elements of comic opera, the cam- 
paign was the most brilliant piece of electioneering 
in our time. It discovered a masterly strategy, a sense 
of the moment to strike, a daring and a fertility of 
resource that commanded admiration, if not approval. 
It was a revelation of the woman in action, shrill and 
tempestuous, with the velocity of the wind and a sort 
of sleepless fury that threw every convention to the 
winds. It was startlingly unlike the warfare of men. 
Men in their ultimate political expression are brutal. 
If you are a Minister of whom they do not approve 

260 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

they will smash your windows. But the women were 
more subtle. They got inside the hall ; they hung on 
to the door knob ; they besieged you back and front. 
They made life intolerable with pin-pricks. They 
murdered the orator's best periods and left his per- 
oration in rags. They marched on the House in 
battalions ; they stormed it in furniture vans ; they 
penetrated the keyholes. You watched the river for 
suspicious craft, lest they should scale the Terrace ; 
your eye roved the sky, lest they should descend by 
parachute from the clouds. It was a war divorced 
from all the rules of war. It was feline in its activity 
and cunning. It was unlovely, but it was business. 
It made the cause. Woman's suffrage had been an 
academic issue for half a century : it became actual 
and vital, as it were, in a night. It was a pious opinion, 
discussed as you might discuss the Catiline conspiracy : 
it became an issue about which men were ready to fight 
in the last ditch. 

Who was the Moltke of this amazing campaign ? 
Who was it who prepared her battalions and her 
strategy in such secrecy that no whisper of the menace 
was heard until the whole cannonade burst on the new 
Government as it entered into office ? I was presiding 
one afternoon at one of the sittings of the Conference 
on Sweating at the Guildhall when a small woman with 
a tired and rather sad face rose to speak. She spoke 
quietly in a monotone, as if she were soliloquising. It 
was as if an abstraction had found voice, so remote 
did it seem from any personal emotion. With great 
ingenuity her remarks drifted from sweating to the 
subjection of women, who are the victims of sweating, 
and then, before the closure could be applied, the con- 

Mrs Pankhurst 261 

cealed battery was unmasked in "Votes for Women." 
It was Mrs Pankhurst making one of her raids. 

At the first glance it is difficult to associate this 
slight and pathetic figure with the authorship of so 
much tumult and with the inspiration of a movement 
so bizarre and frenzied. But soon the truth is apparent. 
She is not a woman ; she is an idea. One idea. Now 
the dominion of an idea, provided it is sane, is the most 
potent thing in the world. Most people have either no 
ideas or are burdened with so many ideas that they are 
useless. They are like the normal committee described 
by Mr Chamberlain. " On every committee of thirteen 
persons," he once said, " there are twelve who go to the 
meetings having given no thought to the subject and 
ready to receive instructions. One goes with his mind 
made up to give those instructions. I make it my 
business to be that one." Mrs Pankhurst does in- 
stinctively what Mr Chamberlain did by policy. She 
leads by virtue of an obsession. She is the symbol of 
the potency of one idea held to the exclusion of every 
other motive and interest in life. 

The idea is this, that women are the victims of an 
age-long tyranny imposed on them by Tien. That 
tyranny varies with time and latitude and social con- 
ditions. In its crudest form, among the savage tribes, 
it treats woman frankly as a slave, a beast of burden, 
a hewer of wood and drawer of water. In the East 
it imprisons her in the harem and regards her as the 
plaything of idle moments. In mediaeval England she 
was held 

Something better than his dog, a little dearer than his horse. 
In Victorian England she was the graceful decoration 
of life, a symbol of sweetness and innocence, a creature 

262 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

with pretty, kittenlike ways, but having no relevance to 
the business of the world. To-day she is emerging into 
sex consciousness and beating at the bars of circum- 
stance. The cage is enlarged ; but it is still a cage. 
She goes to the University and is bracketed with the 
Senior Wrangler; but she is denied her degree. She 
qualifies for the Bar, as Christabel Pankhurst did, but 
she is denied the right to practise. She enters the 
inferior walks of life, and finds that there is one standard 
of payment for men and an immeasurably inferior one 
for women. She falls, and finds that society has smiles 
for the betrayer and the flaming sword for his victim. 
At the bottom of the abyss, in the sunless court, she 
fights the last silent, helpless battle between starvation 
on the one hand and the lash of the sweater on the 
other. Everywhere she sees herself the chattel of men. 
If she is happy she may be serenaded and garlanded 
with jewels ; if she is unhappy she may be trodden in 
the mire. But one thing she cannot have. She cannot 
have equality of treatment. She cannot have simple 
justice, for she is a woman in a world made by men. 
" Madame," said Charles XI. of Sweden to his wife 
when she appealed to him for mercy to some prisoner 
" Madame, I married you to give me children, not to 
give me advice." That was said a long time ago ; but 
behind all the changes of the centuries, it still represents 
much of the thought of men in relation to women. 

It is not until one has entered sympathetically or 
otherwise into this conception of the serfdom of woman 
that one can understand Mrs Pankhurst and her cam- 
paign of violence. She is a woman to whom the 
thought of this sex oppression is like a raging fever. It 
has burned up all other interests. It has driven her in 

Mrs Pankhurst 263 

turn from one political party to another, from Liberalism 
to the I.L.P., and from the I.L.P. out into a sort of 
political wilderness. She has deliberately chosen the 
role of Ishmael, her hand against the whole institution 
of society, whether the immediate cause be good or bad, 
for that institution represents to her only a single lurid 
fact the dominance of one sex and the exclusion of the 
other. She sees everything in life hinge upon that fact. 
At the Guildhall meeting to which I have alluded she 
rose to put a question after Mr Pember Reeves had 
spoken. " Was the anti-sweating legislation in New 
Zealand," she asked, " passed before or after the women 
had the vote ? " And a wan smile of triumph greeted 
the admission that it was after. The fact covers her 
whole sky. It hangs like a dark pall over her spirit, 
shutting out the sunshine. As Mr J. J. Mallon says 
in a sketch of her which appeared in the Woman 
Worker : 

What she has to say springs from dark and somewhat bitter 
waters. Her metaphors are shapes of gloom. But at her best, as 
on one memorable day in Manchester, when we commemorated the 
Russians slain on Bloody Sunday, there is that in her voice and 
mien that stays in the mind for ever. Then she passes from recital 
of particular hardship to an impassioned contemplation of all 
suffering : 

" . . . The whole of the world's tears, 
And all the trouble of her labouring ships, 
And all the trouble of her myriad years." 

Her sombre face glows with impersonal pity and appeal ; her sad 
lips deliver the plaint of a sex. You no longer hear a woman's 
voice : you hear the voice of woman. 

It is the gloom of fanaticism, of a thought gnawing 
ceaselessly at the vitals, and growing by what it feeds 
on. The spirit was inherent, for Mrs Pankhurst comes 
of a revolutionary stock, and her grandfather narrowly 

264 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

escaped death at Peterloo. But it has been cultivated 
by circumstance. As a student at Paris she was a 
room-mate of the daughter of Henri Rochefort, and 
caught from her the spirit of Republican France. Back 
in Manchester, she met and married Dr Pankhurst, a 
barrister, "whose political enthusiasm equalled her own, 
and who made the original draft of the Married Women's 
Property Bill giving married women the control of 
their own property which subsequently became law. 
Together they worked feverishly for many causes, Mrs 
Pankhurst herself serving on the Manchester School 
Board and the Board of Guardians. Then they leapt 
into national notice in connection with the battle for 
free speech in Boggart Hole Clough. They won, but 
the victory cost Dr Pankhurst much, and was not un- 
connected with his premature death. Left with a young 
family, Mrs Pankhurst became a Registrar of Births and 
Deaths, a position which, bringing her into direct touch 
with the tragedy of the poor, fed anew the flame within. 
Her purpose ripened. There were four children. They 
should be prepared, like Cornelia's "jewels," for the 
cause and flung into the arena. She formed the 
Women's Social and Political Union, and out of the 
little group of half a dozen unknown women who used 
to meet in a room in Manchester has emerged the 
movement which has shaken the whole fabric of 

She has in a high degree, apart from that intensity 
which is the soul of leadership, the gift of command. 
She has something of the aloofness of Parnell. She 
nurses, as it were, a fire in secret, has that independent 
life of the mind which seems unconscious of all external 
motive. She seems to have no personal life and no 

Mrs Pankhurst 265 

emotions except that overmastering one of abstract 
justice a 

Stern, tyrannic thought that makes 
All other thoughts its slave. 

She has the masterful will that evolves laws for herself, 
and is indifferent to formulas. When challenged to act 
on the democratic constitution of her union, she replied 
that democracy and constitutions are of times and 
seasons, and are not sacrosanct in the realm of varying 
impermanent groups a declaration of thinly veiled 
autocracy that led to a disruption. As a debater she 
has a mordant humour and a swiftness of retort that 
make her a perilous foe. " Quite right ! " shouts a voice 
from the gallery as she protests against the provision of 
the Children's Bill which makes mothers punishable in 
certain cases of mischance to children. " Quite right ! " 
she flashes back. " Before the law the father is parent, 
the mother is forgotten ; forgotten, forsooth, until there 
is punishment to be borne. Then they drag out the 
woman and it is ' Quite right.' " She is, above all, a 
leader in that her passion is always governed by the will. 
Her exaltation is kept at white heat, but never, as in 
the case of some of her followers, gets out of control. 
Her extravagances are considered : they are never 
touched with the taint of hysteria. 

Her astuteness is evidenced as much in the limitation 
as in the violence of her campaign. Not a word of 
access to Parliament. You would gather that that was 
an ideal to which she was indifferent. It is, of course, 
the crown of her purpose, the end to which the present 
agitation is the preliminary. For she stands for the 
complete civic and political emancipation of woman, for 
full and equal citizenship, and out of that equality of 

266 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

citizenship she believes there will emerge that equality 
of social condition and that equal justice which will 
remove the wrongs that afflict her sex. Whatever we 
may think of her methods, we cannot doubt that they 
have shaken the walls of Westminster and made a 
breach through which future generations of women are 
destined to enter into undisputed possession of citizen- 
ship, with consequences fateful and incalculable. 

Photo by Thomson To face p. 267 


I WAS talking one day in the garden of a friend of 
mine on the subject of Stevenson, when he brought 
forth a file of Young Folks for 1881, containing the 
"Sea Cook," and another for 1884, in which appeared 
the " Black Arrow." Turning the yellow pages, he casu- 
ally pointed to an article, one of a series, on " Amateur 

" There," said he, " are the modest beginnings of 
greatness. To-day the writer of that humble article is 
master of the Times, a member of the House of Lords, 
owner of half the papers you see in the hands of the 
people, the Napoleon of the Press ; whether you like it 
or not, the most influential man in this country." For 
the name under the article was "Alfred C. Harmsworth." 
" How has it been done ? " he asked. " What manner of 
man is this Lord Northcliffe ? " 

" I have," I said, " the privilege of not knowing Lord 
Northcliffe. I am that miracle in these days, a journalist 
who has never been through his mill, never written a 
line for him, nor met him, nor, except when he has been 
in the Peers' Gallery of the House of Commons, even 
seen him. I am therefore well qualified to answer your 
question, for I can view him without any personal emotion, 
which, I believe, is a rare thing in a journalist. Lord 

Northcliffe is the type of ' the man in the street.' 


268 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

There is no psychological mystery to be unravelled 
here, no intellectual shadow land. He is obvious and 
elementary a man who wants material success and 
nothing else. He has no other standard by which 
to judge life. Napoleon's question was, ' What have 
you done?' Lord Northcliffe's question would be, 
' What have you got ? ' For he not only wants success 
himself; he admires it in others. It is the passport 
to his esteem. It is the thing he understands. If 
you will watch his career you will see that, as far as 
he has a philosophy at all, it is this, that merit rides in a 
motor-car. You become interesting to him, as Johnson 
became interesting to Chesterfield, immediately you 
have succeeded. When he went down to that memor- 
able meeting at Glasgow at which Mr Chamberlain 
formally opened his fiscal campaign, he changed his 
policy in a night. His papers had been full of denuncia- 
tions of what he had christened ' the Stomach Tax ' ; 
but this meeting, so great and so enthusiastic, seemed 
the presage of success. He was going to be left in 
company with that dismal thing, failure. The thing 
was unthinkable, and he leapt the fence on the instant. 
For he believes with Mr Biglow that 

A merciful Providence fashioned us hollow, 
In order thet we might our princerples swallow. 

The one principle to which his loyalty never falters is to 
be on the side of the big battalions. 

" This habit of swift decision, dictated without regard 
to principle, is the key to his success. He carries no 
intellectual or moral impedimenta, has no sentiment, is 
subject to no theory, holds no view of life. He simply 
asks, ' What will win ? ' and then, to quote Mr Biglow 
again, ' goes inter it baldheaded.' He is, in a word, the 

Lord Northcliffe 269 

Stock Exchange man in the sphere of journalism. He 
represents the conquest of Fleet Street by Capel Court 
Go on the Stock Exchange and you will find it crowded 
with Lord Northcliffes, men of that rapid, decisive type 
who bull and bear with happy indifference to intrinsic 
merit, and to whom the issues of peace and war are of 
importance only as they affect the price of stocks and 

" When Lord Northcliffe set out to feed the war 
flame in South Africa, he did so, I think, without 
any real feeling against the Boers. He is not, I fancy, 
a man who bears malice. For to bear malice involves 
attachment to some point of view, indicates some 
reality of character. Had the Boers won he would 
probably have written them a letter of congratulation. 
But the mood of the country was high and turbulent. 
We were full of 

Such boastings as the Gentiles use, 
And lesser breeds without the law. 

And his conception of journalism is to give the public 
the meat it craves for. If it wants a war, then it is 
his duty to paint the enemy black and horrific ; if it 
wants a sensation, then it is his task to provide it. 
Does the temper of the moment demand the immolation 
of France, then he is the fiercest of Francophobes : 

If the French cannot cease their insults (he says in 1899), their 
Colonies will be taken from them and given to Germany and Italy. 
. . . The French have succeeded in thoroughly convincing John 
Bull that they are his inveterate enemies. . . . England has long 
hesitated between France and Germany. But she has always 
respected the German character, whereas she has gradually come 
to feel a contempt for France. . . . Nothing like an entente cordiale 
can subsist between England and her nearest neighbour. 

Does the mood change and Germany become the object 

270 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

of national suspicion, then who so ready to throw faggots 
on the flame : 

Yes, we detest the Germans and we detest them cordially (he 
says in 1903). They render themselves odious to the whole of 
Europe. I would not tolerate that anyone should print in my 
journal the least thing which might to-day wound France ; but, 
on the other hand, I would not like anyone to insert anything 
that could please Germany. 

" He, in fact, regards himself simply as the purveyor 
of a popular commodity. If the public taste changes, 
then he is the man to change with it. He is wedded to 
no old clothes. He is, truly considered, a humble-minded 
person. His opinions are of so little consequence that 
he is always prepared to adopt those of other people, 
provided that they represent the majority. In 1904, 
when the Progressives looked like winning, he supported 
them ; in 1907, when they were certain to lose, he filled 
his papers with fantastic stories of their misdeeds. It 
was not that he disagreed with them, for disagreement 
implies convictions of some sort. It was simply that he 
was with the crowd. He backs an opinion as he would 
back a horse because he believes it will win. He 
reminds me of that story of Lord Chancellor Thurlow 
and the Nonconformist deputation that went to him to 
protest against some unjust advantage he had given to 
the Established Church. ' Why,' asked the deputation, 
do you always show this partiality for the Established 
Church ? ' 'I show partiality for the Established 
Church,' said Thurlow, ' because it is established. Get 

your sect established and then I'll show partiality 

to you.' 

" It is this absolutely commercial conception of 
journalism which is Lord Northcliffe's contribution to 
his time. Journalism was a profession : he has made it 

Lord Northcliffe 271 

a trade. It had a moral function : in his hands it has 
no more moral significance than the manufacture of 
soap. The old notion in regard to a newspaper was 
that it was a responsible adviser of the public. Its first 
duty was to provide the news, uncoloured by any motive, 
private or public ; its second to present a certain view of 
public policy which it believed to be for the good of the 
State and the community. It was sober, responsible, 
and a little dull. It treated life as if it was a serious 
matter. It had an antiquated respect for truth. It 
believed in the moral governance of things. 

" Lord Northcliffe has changed all this. He started 
free from all convictions. He saw an immense, un- 
exploited field. The old journalism appealed only to 
the minds of the responsible public ; he would appeal 
to the emotions of the irresponsible. The old journalism 
gave news ; he would give sensation. The old journalism 
gave reasoned opinion ; he would give unreasoning 
passion. When Captain Flanagan, from the calm 
retreat of the debtors' prison, was drawing up the 
prospectus of the Pall Mall Gazette, he said proudly 
that it ' would be written by gentlemen for gentlemen.' 
Lord Northcliffe conceived a journal which, in Lord 
Salisbury's phrase, was ' written by office-boys for office- 
boys.' It was a bitter saying ; but Lord Northcliffe 
has had his revenge. He, Lord Salisbury's ' office-boy ' 
of journalism, was raised to the peerage by Lord Salis- 
bury's nephew. 

" It was not the only case in which time passed an 
ironic comment on Lord Salisbury's views on the Press. 
When Gladstone repealed the stamp duty and made 
the penny paper possible, Lord Robert Cecil asked 
scornfully what good thing could come out of a penny 

272 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

paper. A cheap Press, like an enlarged franchise, meant 
to his gloomy and fatalistic mind ' red ruin and the 
breaking up of laws.' And he lived to see himself kept 
in power by the democracy which he had feared, and 
deriving his support from the halfpenny Press, at which 
he would have shuddered. He lived, in fact, to realise 
that there is a better way with the office-boy than to 
drive him into revolutionary movements. It is to give 
him a vote and the Daily Mail. 

" I have said that Lord Northcliffe is the man in 
the street, that is, that his mind is always in tune with 
the mood of the populace. You see it in this article 
in Young Folks. Amateur photography had just become 
popular. He, a lad of eighteen, seized on it as a stepping- 
stone to fortune. A little later came the boom in 
cycling, and Master Harmsworth, still in his teens, 
became a cycling journalist in Coventry. Sir George 
Newnes had touched the great heart of humanity with 
Tit-Bits, and Mr Harmsworth, now a man of twenty-one, 
felt that here was a field for his genius also. He, too, 
would tell men that the streets of London, put end to 
end, would stretch across the Atlantic, and that there 
were more acres in Yorkshire than letters in the Bible. 
Why should he conceal these truths ? Why should the 
public thirst for knowledge be denied? And so, in 
an upper room in the neighbourhood of the Strand, 
Answers came to birth, the prolific parent of some 
hundred, or, perhaps, two hundred I am not sure which 
offspring, ranging from the Funny Wonder to the 
Daily Mail, all bearing the impress of the common mind 
in an uncommon degree, the freedom from ideas, the 
love of the irrelevant and the trivial, the admiration for 
the flagrant and the loud, the divorce from all the 

Lord Northcliffe 273 

sobrieties and sanities of life. The fate of the Times was 
long in doubt, and the secret of its new control was 
carefully concealed. But one day it appeared with several 
columns describing the dress at some society ' function/ 
Lady Midas' wonderful creation from Worth's, and the 
Duchess of Blankshire's rapturous pearls, and I knew 
the touch of the master-hand. The marvellous ' office- 
boy' had no more worlds left to conquer. 

" Perhaps the crucial moment of his life was that day 
in the early nineties, when a young man who had been 
a reporter on the Birmingham Daily Mail, and after- 
wards on the Sun, called on him with a scheme. 
The Evening News was for sale, and the enterprising 
young man had got the refusal of it, and gave Mr 
Harmsworth twelve hours to decide whether he would 
buy it, his own reward being the editorship and a share 
in the business. So far Mr Harmsworth had only 
adorned the sphere of ' tit-bit ' journalism. He seized 
this opportunity to serve his country in a larger sphere, 
and out of that day's work came the Daily Mat7, with 
which the ideals of American journalism were brought 
into our midst, and all the multitude of daily papers 
with which he has endowed us. He is, you see, a man 
of bold and swift decisions. When he found the women 
did not want a women's daily paper, he changed it in 
a night into a halfpenny picture paper. And instantly 
he found his way to the feminine heart. He is doubtful 
whether women want votes ; but he discovered that they 
do want pictures, ' stuck in anyhow, with hardly any 
words at all.' 

" He has adroitness too. When the Daily Telegraph 
started a Sunday issue, he followed suit. Instantly there 

was a great outcry in the country against the Sunday 


274 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

newspaper. To that outcry Lord Burnham and Lord 
Northcliffe bowed with grave professions of respect 
for religious opinion. Subsequently Lord Northcliffe 
purchased two Sunday papers already existing, and 
nothing was said, though we may assume that Lord 
Burnham thought a good deal. There are few earlier 
birds about than Lord Northcliffe. 

" He touches nothing that he does not shall we say ? 
adorn. The note of his mind is over all he does. I 
was looking the other day at one of his multitudinous 
publications a children's cyclopaedia. It contained a 
picture of the solar system, the sun blazing in the centre 
and the planets careering round it. And each planet 
was depicted by a motor-car ! He can make even the 
splendours of the midnight sky speak in the terms of the 
momentary and sordid earth. No doubt the men sitting 
in those motor-cars were reading the Daily Mail. I 
am told that in his office he has a favourite phrase about 
' the shop window.' ' What is wrong with the shop 
window to-day ? ' he will say, as he points to the offend- 
ing issue. It is an eloquent phrase. He is the ' shop 
window ' journalist. The sign over the journalist's 
office in the old days was ' Marchand d'ide"es.' Now it 
is ' The Latest Novelties,' and the editor is the chief 

" He is all that is summed up m that desolating word 
' smart.' He is a ' smart ' man, the representative man 
of a ' smart ' age. It is an age which, if it has ever 
heard of Lord Courtney, regards him only as a dull old 
gentleman who bores you with talk about principles. It 
delights in the man who will advertise himself in twelve- 
foot letters. It worships success, however it is achieved. 
You may be exposed as often as you like : all will be 

Lord Northcliffe 275 

forgiven if only you will be smart. You may espouse 
one cause to-day and another to-morrow, one cause here 
and another there : it does not matter so long as you 
do it with effrontery and success. Its patriotism is that 
strange, inverted thing which makes ' Little Englander ' 
a phrase of withering reproach, as though to love Eng- 
land were impious. 

" It is not that it believes the wrong things : it is that 
it has ceased to believe anything. Its drama is the 
music-hall ; its moral teacher Mr Hall Caine ; its in- 
structor the inspired office-boy. As I came along in the 
Tube to see you, I took notice of the papers in the 
people's hands. The fat gentleman on one side of me 
was reading the Globe ; the slim lady on the other the 
Daily Mirror; the smart office-boy in front the Daily 
Mail; the meek person next the Sunday Companion ; the 
lad in the corner Comic Cuts. There were Evening 
Newses, and Red Magazines, Puck, and the World. The 
papers were different, but the accents were one. Where 
Lord Northcliffe was not, there was Mr C. Arthur 
Pearson, his pale shadow. The revolution is complete. 
The old journalism is dead, the voice of Answers speaks 
in the thunders of the Times, and Lord Northcliffe 
' bestrides the world like a Colossus,' the type of power 
without the sense of responsibility of material success 
without moral direction." 

" You have spoken truly," said the other, " though I 
think Watts has put the thing more tersely in his picture 
of ' Mammon.' But you paint the time too gloomily. 
It is a time of change and disturbance and fickleness 
and strange forms come to the surface ; but out of the 
welter the new England is emerging with a new social 

276 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

gospel and a new vision. Lord Northcliffe, with his 
shop-window novelties, is but a transition phase. He is 
only the echo of the passing mood and the shallow 
craze. The great movement is coming from below and 
is independent of all the inanities of the press. Be of 
good cheer. We are a people yet. . . . And now to 
resume. When I met Stevenson at Bournemouth . . ." 

Photo by Russell & Sons 

To face p. 277 



IN the early days of the Fiscal controversy I was dining 
with two politicans at the table of a mutual friend in the 
Temple. The politicians one a Peer and the other a 
Commoner had been and still were Liberal Imperial- 
ists ; both are now in the Government. The talk 
turned, as it always did in those days, on the prospects 
of a " C. B." or a Rosebery Cabinet. 

" I must admit," said the Commoner, " that C. B. has 
treated me very handsomely. I attacked him bitterly 
in the midst of the war. Most men would have re- 
membered it ; he has forgotten it, and when last week 
he was asked to preside at a meeting I was to address, 
he consented cheerfully, without a moment's hesitation. 
Now Rosebery is a man whom you never know how you 
will catch. He may be all smiles to-day and to-morrow 
you will find him cold and remote as an iceberg." 

" Yes," said the Peer, " he came down to the House 
this afternoon to support my motion, and delivered an 
excellent speech. I met him in the lobby afterwards, 
stopped him, and thanked him for his support. He 
turned on his heel without a word and walked away." 

" He turned on his heel and walked away." The 
phrase sums up Lord Rosebery. He is always turning 
on his heel and walking away now from his friends, 

now from himself. He is as inconstant as the moon, 


278 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

unstable as water, whimsical as a butterfly. His path 
leads from nowhere to nowhere. He is like a man lost 
in the mist on the mountains and having no compass 
with which to guide his steps. He has all the gifts 
except the gift of being able to apply them. Macaulay 
said of Byron that all the good fairies brought their 
offerings at his christening ; but the one malignant fairy, 
uninvited, came and turned the gifts of the others to 
bitterness. And so with Lord Rosebery. He was 
endowed with all the elements of greatness; but the 
elements are not enough. They must be compounded 
into unity by that indefinable something, constant and 
purposeful, which we call character, and it is the quality 
of character which Lord Rosebery lacks. And lacking 
that he lacks all. His gifts are idle ornaments ; his life 
a drama without a sequence and without a theme. 

He is the tragedy of unfulfilment. Twenty-five years 
ago he rode in the lists the most brilliant figure in the 
land. The sun of Gladstone was near the setting ; but 
here was the promise of the dawn of another day hardly 
less splendid. Genius and wealth, wit and wisdom, 
fascination and the gift of incomparable speech all 
combined and all fused by a young and chivalrous 
enthusiasm that drew all men's hearts to him. He rode 
by the side of his great chief in those memorable Mid- 
lothian days, a figure of romance, carrying the golden 
key of the golden future. With what enthusiasm we 
saw him enter the brief Ministry of 1886 as Foreign 
Minister! With what high hopes we welcomed his 
splendid championship of the new London County 
Council, saw him fling himself into the great cause of a 
regenerated London, saw him sitting seven hours a day 
in the chair, taking his chocolate in place of a meal ! 

Lord Rosebery 279 

Here was indeed the man to lead us into the Promised 

Was it all false, that world of knightly deeds, 
The splendid quest, the good fight ringing clear ? 
Yonder the dragon ramps with fiery gorge, 
Yonder the victim faints and gasps and bleeds ; 
But in his Merry England our St George 
Sleeps a base sleep beside his idle spear. 

What is the meaning of it all ? For answer one recalls 
that saying of William Johnson, his tutor in his Eton 
days " Dalmeny has the finest combination of qualities 
I have ever seen. He will be an orator, and, if not a 
poet, such a man as poets delight in. But he is one of 
those who like the palm without the dust." " The palm 
without the dust," But it is the dust which gives the 
palm its meaning ; it is the race and not the reward that 
matters. Fortune, with cruel irony, gave him the palm 
without the pursuit. He found it an emblem of nothing, 
and he threw it scornfully aside. He had not paid for 
it in toil and devotion, and he could not value that for 
which he had not paid. 

He has been the spoiled child of fortune the type of 
the futility of riches, whether of mind or of circumstance, 
undisciplined in the hard school of struggle. It was as 
though he had the Midas touch. All things turned to 
gold beneath his hand. He had but to express a wish 
and it was fulfilled. He had but to appear and the 
path was clear before him. That triple ambition which 
is attributed to him is true in spirit if not in fact. He 
would marry the richest heiress in England ; he would 
win the Derby ; he would become Prime Minister. He 
would have the palm, but not the dust. He would 
have learning ; but he would " go down " rather than 
sacrifice his racing stud at Oxford. He would have 

280 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the Premiership; but he would not sit on a stool in 
the Home Office. He would command ; but he would 
not serve. 

It was said of Sir James Picton, that brilliant hero of 
Waterloo, that he would never have learned to command 
because he had never learned to obey. Lord Rosebery 
never learned to obey. He served no apprenticeship to 
life, and the inconstancy of the brilliant amateur is over 
all he does. Above all, he served no apprenticeship to 
politics. Fortune, cruel in its kindness here as always, 
sent him straight to the House of Lords. Again, the 
palm without the dust. " What a mind, what endow- 
ments the man has ! " said Mr Churchill, speaking of him 
to me. " I feel that if I had his brain I would move 
mountains. Oh, that he had been in the House of 
Commons ! There is the tragedy. Never to have come 
into contact with realities, never to have felt the pulse 
of things that is what is wrong with Rosebery." 

There is truth in this ; but it is not all the truth. He 
has, it is true, the petulance and impatience of the un- 
schooled mind. But his real defect as a politician goes 
deeper than circumstance. It is in his nature. He has 
the temperament of the artist, not of the politician. 
The artist lives by the intensity of his emotions and his 
impressions. The world of things is coloured and trans- 
muted in the realm of his mind. He is subjective, 
personal, a harp responsive to every breeze that blows. 
The breath of the May morning touches him to ecstasy ; 
the east wind chills him to the bone. He passes quickly 
through the whole gamut of emotion, tasting a joy 
unknown to coarser minds, plunging to depths un- 
plumbed by coarser minds. He is a creature of moods 
and moments, and spiritually he dies young. The 

Lord Rosebery 281 

successful politician is made of sterner and harder stuff. 
His view is objective. He applies his mind to things 
like a mechanic. They are the material that he moulds 
to his slow purposes. He is not governed by them, but 
governs them. He is insensitive to impressions, and, if 
he has emotions and impulses, has learned, like Glad- 
stone, to be their master and not their slave, to use them 
and not to be used by them. He is, in fact, a man of 
business, cold and calculating even in his enthusiasm, 
not a poet lit with the roselight of romance. Walpole, 
Pitt, Chamberlain, Asquith these are the type of the 
politician. Lord Rosebery 's temperament is that of 
Byron rather than of these. 

He is the spendthrift of political friendship. No man 
in our time has " run through " such a fortune in friends 
as he has done. His path is strewn with their wreckage. 
When, like Achilles, he went to his tent, they gathered 
round him with loyal devotion. They left the titular 
chief in chill isolation to fight the battle of Liberalism 
through the bitter years of the war. They sacrificed 
everything to woo him back to the battle line. They 
became "Imperialists"; they formed a League in his 
service; they kept the way clear for his return. When 
the war was over " C. B." himself, in the historic inter- 
view, besought him to come back. (" I liked Rosebery," 
he told me, " and took the leadership always hoping to 
see him back.") " No, no, C. B.," he said, " I do not 
belong to your tabernacle." The more he was impor- 
tuned the more wayward and impenetrable he became. 
He continued to speak ; but he never spoke without 
turning his guns on his old friends. Even when the 
Fiscal issue arose he spoke in unclear tones. " Free 
Trade was not in the Sermon on the Mount." He 

282 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

flung the mantle of mystery around him, took refuge 
more and more within himself. His friends hoped 
against hope. The day of decision was near. Still 
they waited for him. He went down to Bodmin and 
declared : " I will not serve under that banner." And 
with that final word he pronounced his political extinc- 
tion and rehabilitated Liberalism. 

He had squandered the last penny of his political for- 
tune. He was left a lonely figure in his lonely furrow 
a political profligate at the end of his resources. 

And yet Tout savoir, c'est tout pardonner. Per- 
haps if we knew all the inner history of that brilliantly 
futile life the verdict would be given in sorrow and not 
in anger. It is not for me to raise the curtain on the 
Rosebery-Harcourt feud. The two were flint and steel. 
They met only to clash and strike fire. Lord Rosebery 
would not serve under Sir William in the Home Office. 
It can be imagined with what feelings the great stalwart 
of Liberalism saw the young rebel snatch the palm from 
his grasp in the moment of victory. He took office 
under him ; but the wound rankled, and Sir William 
could be an ill-bedfellow. " It was a sorry business," 
said one who was in that Cabinet to me, " and my sym- 
pathies were with Rosebery. He was not well treated." 
Perhaps there we have the secret of the wasted life. 
Or perhaps it is in that domestic sorrow that robbed 
him of the wife to whom he was deeply attached. Or 
in that cruel affliction of insomnia which has pursued 
him for long years, making him a night wanderer in 
search of sleep. One thinks of him taking his carriage 
under the stars and driving, driving, driving, and of the 
cheerless dawn breaking on the unslept eyes. Yes, 
perhaps, to know all would be to forgive all. 

Lord Rosebery 283 

There he sits on the cross-benches of the House of 
Lords, his head leaning back on his linked hands, his 
heavy-lidded light blue eyes fixed in a curious, impas- 
sive stare a sphinx whose riddle no man can read, a 
sphinx gazing bleakly at the 

Universal blank of Nature's works, 
To him expunged and razed. 

A lonely man, full of strange exits and entrances, in- 
coherent, inexplicable, flashing out in passionate, melo- 
dramatic utterances, disappearing into some remote 
fastness of his solitary self. The light has vanished 
from the morning hills, the vision has faded in grey 
disenchantment. He is the Flying Dutchman of politics 
a phantom vessel floating about on the wide seas, 
without an anchor and without a port. It is significant 
that his latest work should deal with " The Last Phase " 
of Napoleon, for it is that solitary figure standing on 
the rock of St Helena and gazing over the sea at the 
setting sun of whom he most reminds us. Behind, the 
far-off murmur of the great world where he was once 
the hero, now lost to him for ever ; before, the waste of 
lonely waters and the engulfing night. 


ON some rising ground by the port of Hamburg 
there is a statue, rude, colossal, looking out over the 
landscape. In its suggestion of brutality and force 
it is incomparable. It stands out against the sky like 
a ruthless menace, and in fancy one sees a sea of blood 
surging at the base. It is the statue of Bismarck 
looking out over the Germany that he welded with 
blood and iron. 

With this vision of the Vulcan of modern Europe 
fresh in the mind you turn out of the Wilhelmstrasse at 
Berlin into the Chancellor's residence and pass through 
into the park where Bismarck used to stride about 
with his great boarhounds for companions. To-day the 
Chancellor holds a reception. You advance through 
the gay throng thinking of those terrible brows and 
that fierce, barbaric figure with the boarhounds, and find 
yourself in the presence of a suave and polished gentle- 
man with a black poodle. He takes you by the hand 
and leads you aside with winning cordiality. He gives 
you the impression that you are the only person he 
really cares for in all that company. It is for you 
he has been waiting and watching. You gather that 
your affairs are his constant companion and that his 
interest in them is one of his really serious attachments 
to life. He stoops and pats the black poodle, surrenders 

riwto l>y E. Rich, 

To face p. 28 


Prince Billow 285 

you with an air of regretful affection, and turns to the 
next comer with his genial smile. 

Bismarck was force : Biilow is finesse. Bismarck was 
the iron hand : Biilow is the velvet glove. Bismarck's 
tread sounded like thunder through Europe : Biilow 
treads softly. He is the most accomplished courtier in 
Europe. He disarms you by his unconquerable bland- 
ness and friendliness. I saw him described in an English 
paper recently as " worn-out and harassed, looking too 
tired and apathetic to be a happy man." I have never 
seen a man who looked less harassed, less tired and 
apathetic, more at ease with himself and the world. He 
carries his sixty years with the spirit of youth. His eye 
is clear and laughing, the carriage of his tall, soldierly 
figure erect and alert, his conversation full of an engag- 
ing sprightliness. He has none of the challenging air 
of the typical Prussian, and his vivacity suggests Rome 
rather than Berlin, the boudoir more than the battlefield. 
He wins by subtle address. With Bismarck it was a 
word and a blow and the blow first. When Richter used 
to attack him in the Reichstag he would rise in a sort of 
apoplectic wrath, tug at the stiff collar of his uniform, 
and hurl his thunderbolts about in blind fury. Prince 
Biilow meets the assaults of Bebel of the twinkling eye 
and the fiery eloquence with the weapons of wit and 
politeness, for he has brought into German Parliamentary 
warfare a style of oratory, polished and urbane, which is 
wholly contrary to the traditions of a country where 
politics are harsh and intolerant, and where your public 
foe is your private enemy. 

He has the elusiveness of the diplomatist. The im- 
pression he conveys is that of an elegant trifler with 
affairs, one who is as free from hates as he is from 

286 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

passionate enthusiasms. No urgent moral or human 
motive governs him. He has followed Bismarck's 
ruthless policy in Poland, but without Bismarck's ruth- 
lessness of spirit, for he has nothing of Bismarck's fierce 
intensity. His heart is never engaged. When he utters 
his occasional Bismarckisms, they fall from his lips 
robbed of their thunder. " Let the man alone," he said, 
replying in the Reichstag to Mr Chamberlain's reference 
to the German Army " let the man alone. He is biting 
at granite." It was a fine saying ; but it was an echo. 
The voice was the voice of Biilow, but the words were 
the words of Frederick the Great. The true Biilow 
utters himself in lighter and more airy fashion, in the 
language of gay persiflage. " Well, why shouldn't Miss 
Italy have an extra dance if she wants one?" he asks 
when Germany is disturbed by the appearance of a 
violent flirtation between Great Britain and Italy. "It 
would be absurd to show jealousy." And so with the 
Socialists. He never stamps on them with Bismarck's 
brutal violence. He is polite and ironical. He seeks to 
laugh them out of court by superior wit and pleasantry. 
All parties are one to him, for he is vassal to no 
political theory. The machine of government is a thing 
apart from the life of the people. It is the property 
of a class his class. " The public ! What have they 
to do with the law except obey it ? " he might say with 
a famous Bishop of Exeter ; but he would say it with 
more suaveness of phrase. Democratic government is 
an ideal which fills him with polite scorn. The people 
are children to be ruled with paternal kindness and 
tickled with the phrases of Chauvinism. His political 
empiricism is exhibited in his bloc. The idea of ruling 
through an alliance of the Clericals and the Liberals 

Prince Billow 287 

could only have occurred to a mind without any fixed 
principle of internal political development. It could 
only have occurred also in a country where the spirit of 
Liberalism is dead and only the shell remains. 

Prince Biilow's politics, in fact, are the politics of the 
Foreign Minister. Human rights and human wrongs 
do not interest him. He dwells, like his Emperor, 
outside them in the realm of Imperial dreams. The 
Baghdad Railway is more to him than the desolation 
of Macedonia, and a great navy is more than the im- 
poverishment of the people that is its price. In all this 
he represents the spirit of German policy, with its large 
ambitions and its divorce from the humanising tendency 
of modern politics. It is a spirit that contrasts strikingly 
with the spirit of France, which, now as ever, bears 
the banner of civilisation. France is in the Twentieth 
Century : Germany, with all its wonderful organisation, 
is spiritually still in the Eighteenth. It will remain 
there until the inspiration of its government comes not 
from the Court, but from the people. 

But with all his Imperialism Prince Biilow would 
seem to love war as little as the Kaiser. " Wars them- 
selves are not half so interesting as the events that cause 
them," he said long ago, and in these words spoke the 
diplomatist. And again, " War is a vulgar thing, and 
at this time of day the man who prevents war is greater 
than the man who wins battles." He will never talk 
like Bismarck about " bleeding France white " ; but the 
Morocco affair left an uneasy sense that his pacificism is 
not wholly to be trusted. Trust, indeed, is not a quality 
that springs from so supple and adroit a personality. 

His imperturbable urbanity and savoir faire, con- 
cealing a certain Machiavellian view of government, are 

288 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

the secret of Prince Biilow's success. They have enabled 
him to remain on the top for eleven years in a world of 
intrigue as tortuous and unscrupulous as an Oriental 
Court. How tortuous, how unscrupulous, the world 
realised through the noisome revelations of the Harden- 
Moltke case. It is the consequence of a government 
which centres not in the people, but in an autocrat. 
Prince Biilow, of course, denies this. V/hen replying to 
Bebel on one occasion, he declared that camarillas and 
intrigues were not peculiar to absolute monarchies. 

" I have," he said, " spent a portion of my life in 
countries which are governed on strictly Parliamentary 
lines. I have also lived in Republics. I can assure 
Herr Bebel that intrigues and backstair influences and 
all that sort of thing flourish in those countries a good 
deal more than in ours. Never has so much incense 
been burned before princely vanity as there is now burnt 
before King Demos. The courtiers of King Demos are 
superior to the courtiers of princes in the art of cringing 
and fawning." 

Yet outside the realm of romance it would be difficult 
to find a story of political plotting to parallel that in 
which Prince Biilow has played so interesting a role. 
It is a story in which we see the Emperor as a tool in 
the hands of a subtle intriguer who weaves his plots and 
pulls his strings from the coulisses behind the scenes. 
There is no more sinister figure in modern European 
politics than that of Prince Philip Eulenburg, who has 
now fallen, like Lucifer, never to rise again, bringing 
down with him in his final catastrophe Count Posa- 
dowsky, with the long grey beard, whom I used to see 
taking his coffee every afternoon in the caf6 opposite 
the Palast Hotel. Eulenburg has been the Warwick 

Prince Billow 289 

of Germany. Even in Bismarck's day this strange, 
elusive figure was a power strong enough to win the 
hate of the Iron Chancellor, who would have no rival 
near the Throne. " He has eyes that can spoil my 
breakfast at any time," said Bismarck of him. " He 
does not want to be anything neither Secretary of 
State nor Chancellor. He thinks with Voltaire, ramitie 
(fun grand homme est un bienfait des dieux. That is all 
he wants. He is an enthusiast, a spiritualist, and a 
fine talker in the style of Radowitz. For a man of the 
Kaiser's dramatic temperament that kind of man is very 

Eulenburg not only did not want to be anything. 
He feared to be anything, for he wanted to be every- 
thing. He wanted to be the invisible power behind 
the throne, and he knew that if he became Chancellor 
his official relations with the Kaiser would destroy 
that power. So he contented himself with being 
Ambassador at Munich, from whence he pulled his 
strings. Bismarck fell, Caprivi fell, Hohenlohe, who 
hated Eulenburg also, passed, and Baron von Bieberstein, 
perhaps the ablest statesman in Germany, having been 
spirited away to Constantinople, the way was clear for 
Eulenburg's nominee. That nominee was Herr von 
Biilow, who, after a career in half the embassies of 
Europe, St Petersburg, Paris, Bucharest, Athens, and 
Vienna, was now Ambassador at Rome, and married 
he had eloped with her to a brilliant Italian Princess 
of the House of Camporeale, a stepdaughter of the 
Italian statesman Minghetti. Biilow and Eulenburg 
were old friends, using the familiar " thou " in their 
intercourse. But Billow's wife loved Italy and did not 
love Berlin, and, it is said, travelled to Vienna to plead 


290 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

with Eulenburg not to press the nomination. The 
story of this journey is denied by Prince Biilow. "It 
is an excellent story," he said in the Reichstag. " It 
has only one defect it is not true." Whether true or 
false, Eulenburg had his way. Herr von Biilow became 
Count von Biilow and Imperial Chancellor. Then the 
Eulenburg web was woven at a furious speed. The 
Chancellor was his nominee. He got M. Lecomte, a 
friend of his Munich days, appointed to the French 
Embassy in Berlin, which gave him the key to Franco- 
German relations. Two lieutenants of his, Holstein and 
Kiderlen Waechter, were at the Berlin Foreign Office, 
and finally he secured the appointment of his former 
military attache", Count Kuno von Moltke, as Military 
Governor of Berlin, a position that brought him into 
daily contact with the Kaiser. Eulenburg was supreme. 
He held all the strings in his hand. 

The camarilla that enmeshed the unconscious Kaiser 
ran the Empire. The world began to talk, even to 
print. Eulenburg fell out with Holstein, and the 
Morocco affair enabled him to secure his dismissal 
by the Kaiser. Coldness had sprung up between 
Eulenburg and his Chancellor. Count von Biilow had 
proved too great a success. He could talk as brilliantly 
as Eulenburg, and his influence with the Kaiser was 
becoming dangerous. He was marked for slaughter. 
But a sudden attack from another quarter incontinently 
brought the whole fabric to the ground. Herr von 
Holstein, smarting from his dismissal and the desertion 
of Eulenburg, took Herr Harden, the most brilliant 
journalist in Berlin, into his confidence. Conveniently, 
at this time, the wife of Count Kuno von Moltke 
divorced her husband, and this unsavoury affair became 

Prince Billow 291 

mixed up with Harden's exposure of the camarilla. 
All this time the Kaiser was sublimely unconscious 
of how he was ruled, and still visited the Eulenburg 
seat. But one day the Crown Prince placed half a 
dozen copies of Harden's paper in his father's hands, 
and the crash came. Moltke was dismissed, Eulenburg 
ostracised, and Posadowsky innocent, able, grey- 
bearded Posadowsky whom Eulenburg had selected 
as the successor of the Chancellor, deposed from his 
post as Minister of the Interior, where he had done 
more for Germany than any man of his time. 

And so Prince von Biilow Prince on the morn- 
ing that Delcasse fell survives, the last relic of the 
Eulenburg system, more powerful than ever, so power- 
ful that the Kaiser has begun to feel uncomfort- 
able, so powerful that the fate of Bismarck already 
overshadows him. " His days are numbered," said a 
student of politics in Berlin to me. ' He lasts because 
the Kaiser can find no one to succeed him. We are so 
poor in men who are at once able and liked by the 
Kaiser. But he will go." 

When he falls there will be nothing of the tragedy 
that surrounded the fall of Bismarck. The old 
Chancellor's dismissal was like a sentence of death 
to him. " You take my life when you do take the 
means whereby I live." He had two passions whereby 
he lived the passion for power and the passion for the 
Germany that he had created. When he was cast out 
of the Wilhelmstrasse he was beggared. No attachment 
to life remained to him. Prince Biilow will pass out as 
cheerfully as Charles Lamb left the servitude of the 
East India Company. He will smile as blandly as 
he smiles now when he receives you in the Wilhelm- 

292 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

strasse, and his black poodle will be with him. He 
will not be found in Prussia, nor in his native Mecklen- 
burg, nor even in Germany. Italy is the land that holds 
his heart, and it is there, in Rome, that he has bought 
a lordly pleasure-house, the Villa Malta, which he pur- 
chased from Queen Margherita for ^"200,000. For 
Prince Biilow, fortunate in all worldly things, is a rich 
man. He was not rich when he went to Berlin, but an 
admirer had the happy thought to die and leave him a 
fortune which brings him in half a million marks a year. 
Upon that he and his wife will be able to cultivate those 
polite tastes which are their chief interest in life, for the 
Prince loves art and literature and archaeology, and will 
quote the poets of half a dozen tongues, while the Princess, 
a pupil of Liszt, is devoted to music. 


MR RUDYARD KIPLING is the first Englishman to be 
awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature. He is the first 
Englishman to be crowned in the Court of Literary 
Europe. He is chosen as our representative man of 
letters, while George Meredith, Thomas Hardy, and 
Algernon Charles Swinburne are still amongst us. The 
goldsmiths are passed by and the literary blacksmith is 
exalted. We do not know the grounds of the decision ; 
but we do know that Mr Kipling is not our King. 
"Where O'Flaherty sits is the head of the table." 
Where George Meredith sits is the throne of English 

Twenty years ago Mr Kipling went up in the sky 
like a rocket a rocket out of the magic East, scatter- 
ing its many-coloured jewels in the bowl of night. 
Never was there such a dazzling spectacle. The firma- 
ment with all its stars was a mere background of 
blackness for its sudden splendour. To-day we see 
that the firmament with its stars is still there. What 
of the rocket? 

It was a portent. It proclaimed the beginning of a 
decade of delirium, which was to culminate in a great 
catastrophe, twenty thousand British dead on the South 
African veldt and the saturnalia of Mafeking night in 
London. The rocket that rose in the East completed 

294 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

its arc in the Transvaal. Mr Kipling, in a word, was 
the poet of the great reaction. " This voice sang us 
free," says Mr Watson of Wordsworth. It may be said 
of Mr Kipling that "this voice sang us slaves." Through 
all the amazing crescendo of the 'nineties, with its 
fever of speculation, its Barney Barnatos and Whitaker 
Wrights, its swagger and its violence, its raids and 
its music-hall frenzies, the bard of the banjo marched 
ahead of the throng, shouting his songs of the barrack- 
room, telling his tales of the camp-fire and the jungle, 
proclaiming the worship of the great god Jingo. What 
did they know of England, those pitiful, mean-souled 
Little Englanders, prating of justice, slobbering over 
natives, canting about the " righteousness that exalteth 
a nation " ? Righteousness ! Had we not the mailed 
fist, and was not the God of battles with us ? 

For the Lord our God most High 

He hath made the deep as dry, 

He hath smote for us a pathway to the ends of all the Earth. 

Was not this fair earth ours by purchase and right of 
race ? Had we not bought it from Jehovah by blood 
and sacrifice? 

We have strawed our best to the weed's unrest, 

To the shark and the sheering gull. 
If blood be the price of admiralty, 

Lord God, we ha' paid in full. 

And should we not do as we would with our own ? 
The Indian in India, the Boer in the Transvaal, the 
Irishman in Ireland what were they but food for our 
Imperial hopper? "Padgett, M.P., was a liar," a 
wretched emissary of Exeter Hall, prowling around 
the quarters of gentlemen and cackling about the 
grievances of Indians. What did he know of India? 
What were the natives that they should have griev- 

Rudyard Kipling 295 

ances? And the Irish, what were they but traitors 
traitors against the Chosen People of the God of blood 
and iron of his inflamed vision, that God 

Beneath Whose awful Hand we hold 
Dominion over palm and pine. 

And Labour ? What was the insurgence of Labour 
but the insolent murmurings of the Walking Delegate ? 
For the Chosen People were few. They did not in- 
clude the miserable rabble who toiled and who only 
became interesting to the god-like mind when they took 
the shilling and entered "the lordliest life on earth." 
The Chosen People, in a word, had Mr Cecil Rhodes at 
one end of the scale and the " raw recruity " at the 
other. And the Empire was an armed camp, govern- 
ing by drum-head court-martial, its deity a strange 
heathen god of violence and vengeance. 

The war came, and Mr Kipling turned contemptu- 
ously to the " little street-bred people," and commanded 
them to " Pay, pay, pay." It was their paltry share in 
the glorious enterprise of conquest and Empire. And 
when peace followed, and down at Rottingdean Lady 
Burne-Jones, the aunt of the poet, pointed the moral 
by hanging out the legend from Naboth's vineyard, 
" Hast thou killed, and also taken possession," and the 
people, with the dregs of the war-fever in them, came 
about and demonstrated violently, there emerged from 
the house a small dark man in spectacles with words of 
soothing and peace. It was Mr Rudyard Kipling face 
to face with the passions that he had done so much 
to kindle. 

It is all like a bad dream, the tale of those years 
a bad dream, with the strum of the banjo sounding 
through it a sort of mirthless, demoniac laugh the 

296 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

laugh heard at its most terrible in the " Gentlemen 
Rankers " : 

We're poor little lambs who've lost our way, 

Baa! Baa! Baa! 
We're little black sheep who've gone astray, 

Baa-aa-a ! 

Gentlemen rankers out on the spree, 
Damned from here to Eternity, 
God ha' mercy on such as we, 
Baa ! Yah ! Bah ! 

What was the secret of the hypnotism he exercised ? 
It was partly the magic of an appeal perfectly attuned to 
the temper of the time. Israel had waxed fat, and had 
turned to the worship of the golden calf. It was the 
emergence of the baser passions, the lust of power with- 
out a purpose, of wealth without industry. The gold of 
South Africa had set up a fever in the blood. It was as 
though the nation had left the temples of its ancient 
worship to fall down before the Baal of the Stock 
Exchange. And in its haste to grow rich it turned 
passionately upon the stupid little people that stood 
insolently in its path. 

Drunk with sight of power, we loosed 
Wild tongues that had not Thee in awe. 

In that momentary flash of the " Recessional," Mr 
Kipling pierced to the heart of the disease, and delivered 
his own merciless sentence. 

And partly it was due to the astonishing intensity of 
his vision. Coleridge said of Kean that to see him act 
was like reading Shakespeare by flashes of lightning. 
Mr Kipling sees life by flashes of lightning, and sets it 
down in phrases that strike like lightning. It is a 
world filled with sudden and sinister shapes not men, 
but the baleful caricatures of men ; not women, but 
Maenad sisters, with wild and bloodshot eyes and fearful 

Rudyard Kipling 297 

dishevelled locks ; with boys that drink and smoke and 
swear like dragoons ; animals that talk and machinery 
that reasons like a Yellow journalist. It is all a dis- 
ordered, frenzied motion, soulless and cruel a world 
seen in a nightmare, with all the intensity and literal- 
ness of a nightmare and all its essential untruth. It is 

Fantastic mockery, such as lurks 
In some wild poet when he works 
Without a conscience or an aim. 

There is the essential fact. Mr Kipling is a pre- 
cocious boy with a camera. He has the gift of vision, 
but not the gift of thought. He sees the detail with 
astonishing truth, but he cannot co-ordinate the parts. 
He gives the impression of encyclopaedic knowledge, 
for everything he sees is photographed on his retina and 
everything he hears is written down in his brain. There 
is nothing he does not seem to know, from the habits of 
Akela the wolf in the jungle or the seal in the Behring 
Straits to the building of a bridge and the mechanism 
of a liner ; from the ways of Fuzzy- Wuzzy in the desert 
to the ways of the harlot in Whitechapel. All lands 
are an open book to him, the Seven Seas as familiar as 
the Serpentine. He uses the dialect of M' Andrew or 
Mulvaney as readily as the jargon of the East. He is 
as much at home in the Ratcliff highway as on the road 
to Mandalay. He is like the Encyclopedia Britannica, 
fused with imagination at white heat. And as the 
Encyclopedia is to literature so is he to life. He knows 
everything except human nature. He knows all about 
life; but he does not know life, because he does not 
know the heart of man. 

And to the intense vision of the boy he joins the 
passions of the boy. I am told by one who was with 

298 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

him when he came from India to England to school 
that he remembers him chiefly by the pranks he used 
to play at the expense of a mild Hindoo kneeling on 
board at his devotions. It was the instinctive dislike of 
the boy of the thing outside the range of his experience. 
Mr Kipling has never outgrown that outlook. It is the 
outlook of the unschooled mind, vivid and virile, confident 
but crude, subject to fierce antipathies and conventional 
sympathies. He dislikes everything he does not under- 
stand, everything which does not conform to that 
material patriotism which substitutes Mayfair for Sinai 
and speaks its prophecies through the mouth of the 

A further cause of the unrivalled sway he exercised 
over the mind of the public was his fervid patriotism. 
He sang of England with a defiance that sounded a 
challenge to the world and sent the blood singing 
through the veins. It was said of General Kleber that 
merely to look at him made men feel brave. To read 
Kipling made men feel martial and aggressive. We went 
out like the children of Hamelin town to the sudden 
rattle of a drum. But the England of his hot passion 
was not the little England that we know, the England 
of Shakespeare and Milton, the England of a high 
and chivalrous past, that freed the slave and stretched 
out its hand to the oppressed. " What do they know of 
England who only England know," he cried scornfully 
as he marched on singing his fierce songs of an England 
that bestrode the world like a Colossus, treading the 
little peoples of the earth into the dust beneath its iron 
heel. It was an appeal to the patriotism not of a 
people proud of its splendid services to humanity, proud 
of having been ever " foremost in the files of time," but 

Rudyard Kipling 299 

of a people filled only with the pride of material con- 
quest. It was not the soul of England that he loved 
and sang, but the might of England, the thunder of its 
battleships and the tread of its armies across the plains. 
From all this it is doubtful if he is of the Immortals. 
With all his wonderful gifts, his swift phrase, his imagin- 
ative power, his intellectual energy, he is temporary as 
the moment's passion, transient as the moment's hate. 
For his vision is of the lightning, fantastically real ; not 
of the sun, sovereign and serene. He knows much of 
hate, but he knows little of love, and in literature, as in 
the angel's recording book, it is Ben Adhem's name, the 
name of him who loved his fellow-men, that leads all 
the rest. He knows much of the street, but nothing 
of the stars. "And indeed," wrote Tennyson, "what 
matters it what a man knows or does if he keep not a 
reverential looking upward ? He is only the subtlest 
beast of the field." A reverential looking upward ! 
Where in all that literature of passion and horror, of the 
humour of the death's head, and the terrible gaiety of 
despair, of a world " without a conscience or an aim," do 
we find the recognition that man has a soul as well as 
faculties, a moral law as well as the law of the jungle ? 
Once only, and in all the little ironies of literature, there 
is none more significant than that Mr Kipling will pro- 
bably be best remembered by that flash of a nobler 
inspiration when he turned and rent himself and the 
gospel that he preached : 

For heathen heart that puts his trust 

In reeking tube and iron shard 
All valiant dust that builds on dust 

And, guarding, calls not Thee to guard 
For frantic boast and foolish word, 
Thy mercy on Thy People, Lord. 


IF a vote were taken in the House of Commons on the 
question of the most popular member, it is certain that 
Mr Augustine Birrell's name would be in the first half- 
dozen. For Mr Birrell is an impostor who has been 
found out. He affects to be a very gruff and menacing 
person. He looks fiercely at you from below his 
corrugated brows. He raps out an answer like a school- 
master cracking an unruly pupil across the knuckles 
with a ruler. He will have you understand, sir, that he 
is not to be trifled with. You are to know, sir, that he 
is a very hard and ruthless taskmaster not at all the 
person to stand any nonsense, sir. Do you not flinch 
before this fierce eye, sir? do you not tremble at the 
roll of this terrible voice? 

You do nothing of the sort, for you have discovered 
long since that all this stage thunder is deplorable 
make-believe. The eyes that try to look so fierce are 
really twinkling with good-humour behind the spectacles, 
and the mouth that is closed with such firmness gives 
itself away by curving up at the corners into an avun- 
cular benevolence. You suspect that his hand is feeling 
in the avuncular pocket for half a crown. He is, indeed, 
" the whitewashed uncle " of the " Golden Age," who 
comes up on the horizon like a black cloud and vanishes 
in an auriferous shower. Even the little boys in 

Augustine Birrell, K.C. 301 

Battersea Park found him out, for has he not told us 
that when he was wandering there, excogitating his 
speech on the Education Bill, all the youngsters pursued 
him with the refrain, " Please, sir, will you tell me the 
right time ? " That fact is a certificate. When a little 
boy asks you for " the right time, please, sir," you are 
entitled to regard yourself as an amiable figure. It is 
a mark of public confidence and esteem. It is a tribute 
to you not only as a man of property and of leisure, 
but as a man of that easy, companionable exterior, that 
placid frame of mind that invites the casual intrusion. 
You have room and to spare in your capacious nature 
for the little amenities of life. You may be thinking 
in continents, but there are lollipops in your pocket. 
I can imagine no more conclusive epitaph than this : 
" The children loved him, and asked him for the right 

There is an idea that Mr Birrell is a cynic that, like 
Walpole, he believes every man has his price and that 
humanity in the lump is a very bad lot. But his 
cynicism, too, is a masquerade. It is the cynicism not 
of Swift, but of Thackeray, of whom he is reminiscent 
both in temperament and appearance. His heart is 
so tender that he pretends he hasn't got one. " Man 
delights me not, nor woman neither," he seems to 
say. " Look what a rogue you are, sir, and see what 
a merciless, inhuman fellow I am. I am an ogre, sir, 
and you are another we're all ogres." And then, 
down in his comfortable study in Elm Park Road, 
you run the reality to earth and discover in him a 
man full of the milk of human kindness, sensitive to 
a fault, endowed with a large and spacious tolerance, 
bearing the burden of office with a sympathy and an 

302 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

anxious solicitude that bring to mind John Redmond's 
axiom that only a man of the toughest fibre and in- 
durated heart can fill the Irish Office under present 
conditions, and that Mr Birrell has far too much feeling 
for the job. 

Mr Birrell, indeed, has not the temperament which is 
adapted to politics. Parliament is no place for the man 
of feeling. It demands either a rare moral elevation 
that is unconscious of the whips and scorns of office, or a 
hard integument that is impervious to them. The big 
motives move in the atmosphere of an attorney's office, 
and he is the most successful who has the fewest scruples. 
Your principles must hang about you, in FalstafFs 
phrase, " lightly, like an old lady's loose gown," and you 
must be able to tack and turn with the veering wind. 
You must have, in fact, the barristerial frame of mind, 
emotionally detached from the cause it advocates, 
cool, agile, and sincerely cynical cynical, that is, in 
fact and not in form. If your conscience is a little 
seared, so much the better, for politics is a compro- 
mise with conscience, and a seared conscience gives 
least trouble. All this means that the lawyer and the 
business man are most at home in the atmosphere of 

Now Mr Birrell is not a lawyer. It is true that he has 
lived in chambers, is a King's Counsel, and has earned 
his bread by the law. But no man I know has less of 
the lawyer temperament less of the mental outlook of 
so typical a lawyer as, let us say, Sir Edward Carson. 
You cannot imagine Mr Birrell treating a client with 
the cold detachment of an algebraical problem. He 
regards him less as an intellectual exercise than as a 
human emotion. It is not enough to think for him: 

Augustine Birrell, K.C. 303 

he must feel with him, or against him, as the case 
may be. His mind is never engaged alone ; his heart 
must be engaged too. Intellect and feeling are not 
in watertight compartments, as they ought to be 
in every well-equipped lawyer; they are one and 

This is a serious handicap for the politician. It 
prevents him making out the best possible case for a 
thing in which he does not believe. Here we have the 
cause of the singular variations in Mr Birrell's Parlia- 
mentary manner. When he brought in the Irish 
Councils Bill a legacy from his predecessor in the 
Irish office he brought it in in the accents of defeat. 
The key was minor, the terms apologetic. When at the 
close Mr Balfour rose and said, " The right hon. gentle- 
man has brought in a Bill which the House does not 
believe in, and which, I venture to say, the right hon. 
gentleman does not believe in himself," you felt that he 
held the winning hand. How different when Mr Birrell 
brought in his Universities Bill ! Here he believed in 
his client whole-heartedly, and his speech had an eleva- 
tion and a conviction that carried the House as one man. 
If I were a client with an honest case I would rather 
have him as my advocate than any man I know ; but as 
advocatus diaboli he should be given the widest berth. 
He would throw up his brief and leave the Devil in the 

His candour is a fatal bar to the leadership, which 
once seemed within his reach. He has no concealments, 
none of that atmosphere of impenetrable mystery which 
all artful leaders cultivate, and his valour is greater than 
his discretion, which is a fatal defect in a leader. He 
does not suffer fools gladly, or at all. If he tires of a 

304 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

job he says so, and his patience with bores and with 
peddling opposition is soon exhausted. " God takes his 
text and preaches pat-i-ence," says Herbert, but Mr 
Birrell does not listen to the sermon. He is sometimes 
more than a little impatient with his own political 
friends. " You may as well tear up the Bill," he says 
hotly to a committee worrying him to concede something 
he won't concede, and he foreshadows a new measure 
with the honest if impolitic announcement that two of 
his legislative attempts have been defeated, and that if 
the third fails he will take his quietus. 

It is this blunt frankness with himself and with the 
world that handicaps him as a statesman, and makes 
him so dear to the House. He is always himself never 
filling a part or playing for safety. He is what in 
Lancashire they would call "jannock." Dissimulation 
vanishes at his breezy presence, and his gay veracity and 
unequivocal good faith win all hearts. He clears up the 
spirits and restores the humanities of debate. He is like 
an oasis in the desert of arid talk, bubbling with fresh 
waters and rich with 

Verdurous glooms and winding mossy ways. 

He has indeed the most individual note that is heard 
in Parliament a certain mingling of mellow wit and 
mellow wisdom that is unique. He brings with him the 
atmosphere of the library, and moves, as it were, under 
the arch of a great sky. His dispatch-box may contain 
the draft of a Bill, but you suspect that Lavengro, a 
thin-paper, leather-covered, dog's-eared volume, is in his 
pocket. Or perhaps it is the Religio Medici or the 
Apologia, for his sympathies have no limits within 
the limits of noble literature and honest feeling. He 

Augustine Birrell, K.C. 305 

loves to hear " the wind on the heath, brother " ; but he 
loves, too, the cool, cloistral calm of Newman. He is 
true to the tradition of Free Churchmanship, which he 
derives both from his father, the Rev. Charles M. Birrell, 
a distinguished Baptist minister of Liverpool, and from 
his mother, a daughter of the Rev. Dr Grey, one of 
the Disruption fathers ; but he cares little for creeds 
either in religion or politics. " Liberalism is not a 
creed, but an influence," he says somewhere, and he 
turns from the conflicts of the sects with unconcealed 
wrath. In all things he cares more for the spirit than 
the letter 

For forms of faith let graceless zealots fight, 
He can't be wrong whose life is in the right. 

He would be the last man to scrape an acquaintance 
with on the ground of community of creed : the first to 
greet you on the ground of human sympathy. 

Mr Birrell, in fact, is not primarily a politician or a 
lawyer, but a literary man of strong humanist sympathies. 
It was as a literary man that he swam into our ken. 
The freshness and sanity of Obiter Dicta made him 
a marked man. We came to look to him for a certain 
generous wine, " with beaded bubbles winking at the 
brim" a wine compounded of all the great vintages of 
the past, but with a bouquet all its own. His wit has 
a distinction that is unmistakable. It is at once biting 
and genial. It is like the caricature of "F. C. G." in its 
breadth and humanity. It does not wither you. It 
buffets you with great thwacking blows ; but without 
malice. He thumps you as though he loved you, with a 
jolly humour that makes you the sharer rather than the 

victim of his fun. The Birrellisms that he has scattered 


306 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

in his path are unlike any other blossoms of wit. You 
know them as you know the demure pleasantries of 
Holmes or the archaic solemnities of Lamb. "The 
House of Lords represent nobody but themselves, and 
they enjoy the full confidence of their constituents." 
Or, "a pension of five shillings a week is not much 
encouragement to longevity." His humour leaps out 
with a kind of lambent playfulness that makes you feel 
happy because it involves pain to none. " Are you 
going to punish people," he asked in a libel action before 
Mr Justice Darling, " simply for having a lively fancy ? " 
" There wouldn't be many to punish," interposed Mr 
Justice Darling, the licensed wit of the Bench. " I don't 
know," said Mr Birrell, with that heavy gravity with which 
he loves to envelop his fun, " I don't know that many 
judicial vacancies would be created, my lord." It is the 
summer lightning of a gracious sky luminous but 

There is in him a touch of chivalry that borders on 
Quixotism, a generous and uncalculating spirit that 
makes him the leader of forlorn hopes. Who but he 
would have surrendered the security of West Fife in the 
midst of the khaki election to go out and fight North- 
East Manchester? It seemed like an act of political 
felo-de-se. It meant years of exclusion from Parliament, 
and possibly the wreck of his whole career. This 
magnanimity, so rare in politics, was revealed in his 
acceptance of the Irish Secretaryship. He had just 
borne the brunt of the battle at the Education Office, 
and was entitled to a period of pause and to any office 
that he chose to ask for. I am revealing no secret in 
saying that other men, more discreet, declined the most 
thankless task the Ministry has to offer. Mr Birrell 

Augustine Birrell, K.C. 307 

took it, and for the second time in succession became 
the centre of all the lightnings of the political sky, 
charged with a Bill which was not his conception and 
faced with the problem of cattle-driving. It is the 
highest tribute to his good sense and to his mingled 
firmness and reasonableness that he got through that 
ugly difficulty without disaster. It might have meant 
coercion, with all its calamitous consequences. It is 
that dread hanging over the Irish Secretary that must 
make the office a nightmare For no Ministry and no 
Minister is safe from it. Convictions may be strong, 
but external rule must rest ultimately upon coercion. 
You cannot get rid of the danger until you have got 
rid of the system. Mr Birrell knows that. " There is 
only one remedy for Ireland," he says, and as he says 
it you recall Lincoln's axiom that "God never made 
one people good enough to govern another people" 
not even though the governing people were so virtuous 
as the English and the governed so imperfect as the 

The wear and tear of office have left their mark more 
visibly on Mr Birrell than on any other member of the 
Ministry. It is the price which the literary tempera- 
ment has to pay for entering into the sphere of affairs. 
A literary man in office is like a fish out of water. His 
temperament is too nervous and apprehensive for the 
rough task of politics. He may create the atmosphere 
of politics, but it is the " rude mechanic fellows," to use 
Cromwell's phrase, the men of action, the men who can 
handle facts rather than ideas, and who are governed 
by mind rather than spirit, who are necessary for states- 
manship. It is a significant fact that no essentially 
literary man has ever made a first-rate position in 

308 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

practical politics, and the succes cTestime of Mr Birrell 
and Lord Morley does not surprise by its modesty, but 
by its relative magnitude. It is like a defiance of a 
natural law. And however boldly Mr Birrell writes his 
name on the Statute Book, the real place to find his 
authenticfsignature will always be on the flyleaf of a 
merry book. 

Photo fy E. H Mills 

To face f>. 309 



WHEN you enter the church at Lyndhurst Road you 
are conscious if you happen to be sensitive to " atmos- 
phere " of a certain subdued note of expectancy. The 
impression grows as the service advances. There is 
a breath on the face of the waters the subtle breath 
of personality. Perhaps the key is minor, appealing, 
poignant. The preacher is in the grip of some strong 
emotion which colours hymn and prayer and lesson, 
peeps out from the little fable he addresses to the 
children, and is fully revealed in the sermon. It is as 
though he has come from some sudden vision of the 
world's wickedness and the world's wrong. It is visible 
and audible. He hears the world thundering by to 
destruction in a frenzy of luxury and pleasure and 
heedless riot. Hark ! the rush of motor-cars and the 
clatter of wheels on Haverstock Hill break in on the 
tense strain. They are like the voice of the doomed 
world drowning the cry of the prophet. He leans 
forward with outstretched hands, pleading, pleading. 
He is torn with bitter agony. His voice is shaken by 
the tumult of his feelings. A moment more, and the 
tense bow must break. But he draws himself up, 
closes the Bible, and the troubled sea sinks down in 
the calm of a hymn and the peace of the benedic- 
tion. Outside someone touches you on the shoulder 


3io Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

with a light greeting. It is like the breaking of a 

Or perhaps it is a bright morning in spring. The 
song of birds is heard on the heath, and out on Golder's 
Hill he has seen the snowdrops bursting from their 
winter prison the first syllables in the poetry of the 
year, the heralds of the pageant of the earth. And his 
heart sings with the glad tidings of the new birth. He 
has seen the finger of God in the woodlands. He has 
heard the voice of the eternal by the sea-shore. He 
has picked up a shell, and found in it thoughts that do 
lie too deep for tears. For the earth is filled with the 
whispers of the Most High. 

I find letters from God dropped in the street, and each one is 
signed by God's name. 

And I leave them where they are, for I know that wheresoever 
I go others will punctually follow for ever and ever. 

And, full of this sweet assurance, the service flows on 
golden wings to a golden close. The rush of motor- 
cars and the clatter of wheels break in on the melody ; 
but not harshly nor discordantly. Almost they seem 
like a part of the universal song of the reawakened 

But a day comes of bitter self-abasement. He is 
bowed down with the sense of failure. He is stricken 
with remorse, with the passion of weakness and futility. 
A word, a breath, has set all the chords vibrating to the 
miserere. The sorrow of the world is his, and the sin 
of the world too, for what has he done to alleviate the 
one and wash out the other? He is the unfaithful 
servant. He is the bringer of a message which he has 
failed to deliver. The world is deaf because he has not 
unstopped its ears ; the world is blind because he has 

Dr Horton 311 

not unsealed its eyes. He stands, like Whittier, in the 
presence of his soul and arraigns it like a felon. 

Dr Horton is the type of the poet-prophet in the 
pulpit He has the poet's intensity of vision, the poet's 
quick emotional response, the poet's imaginative fervour. 
Tennyson said of Swinburne that " he is a tube through 
which all things blow into music." It is the music of 
the senses, poured from old Triton's "wreathed horn." 
Dr Horton is a voice through which the emotions of 
the soul issue in impromptu passion, now " breathless 
with adoration," now flaming with wrath. He draws 
from a direct well of inspiration. He comes, as it 
were, from some quiet retreat of the soul, filled with a 
message which is not his own a message urgent, 
tyrannical. He has seen a vision, and hurries from the 
road to Damascus to proclaim the thrilling tidings. 
He is consumed with the agitation of the spirit. He 
cannot rest till the vision is revealed. 

It is this emotion that makes his appeal so poignant } 
so disquieting in its intensity, so healing in its more 
placid moods. You cannot be indifferent under him. 
He touches you to the quick to a responsive passion of 
revolt or acceptance. His whole message is a challenge 
to you you personally, you alone. It is you to whom 
the moment has come to decide between the "bloom 
and blight," you for whom 

The choice goes by for ever 
'Twixt that darkness and that light. 

You shall make the choice here and now. You shall not 
escape. He will not let you go until you have chosen 
either for 

The goats upon the left hand, 
Or the sheep upon the right. 

312 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

He is the spiritual impressionist. He sees truth, as it 
were, by flashes of lightning where others arrive at it by 
the slow operation of intellect. A sermon by Dr Hunter 
delights you by its mental power. It is the appeal of 
the mind to the mind. Dr Horton is the appeal of the 
heart to the heart. He has a feminine fervour and 
impatience of fetters. He surrenders himself to his 
emotion, and soars with wings. He does not argue ; he 
proclaims. An incident, a phrase, a thought has opened 
a sudden window into the spiritual world, and he is 
unconscious of all save the vision. This sensitiveness 
to impression, the faculty of seeing the infinite in the 
infinitesimal, has always characterised him. As a little 
boy at a dame-school he heard a lad of hard, bad face 
and blasphemous tongue answering the question, " Who 
gave you that name?" with the words of the Catechism, 
" My baptism, wherein I was made a child of God and 
an inheritor of the Kingdom of Heaven," and the shock 
of that unconscious satire sealed the impressionable 
child for Nonconformity. And later, at Shrewsbury, he 
arrived, by the same sensitive response, at another far- 
reaching conclusion. He and two others, a Ritualistic 
Churchman and an Evangelical Churchman, anticipating 
the union of the Churches, established a prayer meeting 
in the study just before evening call-over. A flame of 
enthusiasm passed through the school, and the study 
became crowded. But persecution came. The world, 
symbolised by the rest of the school, blocked the passage, 
crowded the exit, cuffed, kicked, and cursed these 
daring innovators. The uproar reached the ears of 
the headmaster, who threw his cold protection over 
these young dissenters. " Some of us," he said, " may 
think that the prayers in chapel and in top schools are 

Dr Horton 313 

sufficient, but if there are boys that desire more and wish 
to pray together in their study, they shall not be inter- 
rupted." The invasion of authority in the sphere of 
religion was fatal. The persecution ceased, but so also 
did the prayer meetings, and young Horton's mind leapt 
to another truth that Christianity does not require the 
countenance or support of the State, and is only vital 
when it can defy persecution and is independent of the 
powers of the world. 

He has the defects of the impressionist when he comes 
down into the world of affairs. He is perplexed by its 
ingenuities and cunning, impatient of its restraints. It 
is startling to learn that when, at Oxford, the invitation 
came to him to take charge of a new church at Hamp- 
stead, he was contemplating a career at the Bar. His 
mind would have fretted itself to death in the chill 
prison of legal forms and amid the dry detail of pre- 
cedent. For of all the theatres of the world's conflict 
there is none so passionless and calculating as the law. 
And Dr Horton is all passion and no calculation. 
Impulse governs him and governs him aright ; but in 
affairs he is at sea, and his impulse is checked and 
chilled by the calculations of others. Thus, as President 
of the Free Church Council, he wrote in the midst of the 
education controversy a powerful appeal for the secular 
solution. It was a critical moment. With courage he 
would have carried the day, and that truth which came 
to him at Shrewsbury would have won an enduring 
triumph. But he was overborne by the counsels of 
worldly caution and recanted. Like all prophets, he is 
an indifferent politician. 

" The defect of men like Horton and Meyer," said a 
friend of both himself the son of a great Churchman 

Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

of other days to me, "is the excess of their high 
qualities. They live in an atmosphere of unceasing 
spiritual exaltation. The strain is never relaxed. They 
would be more powerful if they were more earthly." 
There is some truth in the criticism. The soul needs its 
fallow seasons like the body. If it never descends from 
Sinai to the common ways of men it sacrifices some of 
its fellowship with life. It may even lead men astray 
on great human issues, as it led Dr Horton astray in 
regard to the true inwardness of the Boer war. 

And yet without that aloofness the peculiar value of 
Dr Horton would be lacking. He is a voice crying in 
the wilderness of the world. Around him he hears the 
sound of the tumult of life, whirling in giddy mazes 
of pleasure round the gods of the market-place, shot 
through with cries of pain, watered with hopeless tears, 
and ringing with idle laughter. It is a world that has 
broken from the ancient anchorage. He sees it drifting 
over uncharted seas beneath a starless sky. We are 

like corpses in a charnel, 

Fear and grief convulse us and consume us day by day, 
And cold hopes swarm within the living clay. 

And, filled with the sense of a sick world, he comes with 
the passionate reassertion of the faith as the only cure 
of its ills. Reform society by all means, he says to the 
Socialists; but the most perfect organisation will never 
make the world whole. For the Kingdom of God is 
within you, and outside that Kingdom there is no peace. 
He is a Puritan engrafted with Oxford culture a 
Puritan with the atmosphere of a liberal scholarship 
and the graces of taste and sensitive feeling. Oxford 
has no more devoted son, and no better justification for 
opening her doors to Dissenters. " In those days," he 

Dr Horton 315 

says, " it was good to be a Nonconformist at Oxford, 
for everyone was bent on showing that the position 
involved no disqualifications." Oxford gave him a 
Fellowship, and almost claimed him for her own. And 
out of that tender memory of his Oxford days springs 
the affection he always shows towards the Church whose 
system nevertheless seems to him so far removed from 
the essential principles of Christianity. 

But the cool seclusion of Oxford, any more than the 
dry atmosphere of the law, could not have satisfied that 
urgent temperament. He was born to preach. One of 
his earliest memories is that of standing on a dining- 
room chair in his grandfather's house near Covent 
Garden Market, with his grandparents and certain guests 
and domestics for audience, and preaching, armed with 
a ball to hurl at any who should laugh. It was his 
grandmother who laughed first and loudest, and at whom, 
more in sorrow than in anger, he hurled his missile. 
The dream of the child was the true foreshadowing of 
the man his vocation the fulfilment of his mother's 
hope. " It shapes itself to me," he has said, " as the 
thought and the wish of my mother, wrought out silently 
in her heart, and carried, just as I was leaving school for 
the University, over into the land beyond death, and 
there working ceaselessly and effectually, so that it 
would not surprise me if at any time my eyes were 
opened, and I found that she, an invisible spirit, had 
remained by my side all the way to complete the pur- 
pose with which she started me on the journey." 


IT was the eve of the General Election of 1900. The 
Khaki fever was at its height, and Liberalism at the 
lowest ebb of its fortunes. Nowhere was it lower than 
at Blackburn. For twenty years the capital of the 
weaving trade had been a stronghold of Conservatism, 
and now there was ho Liberal with sufficient courage 
even to challenge it. Suddenly there appeared on the 
scene a stranger out of the West Riding. So feeble he 
seemed that he moved the foe to pity more than anger. 
He came limping into the lists on foot a pallid, hatchet- 
faced young man, small of stature, and leaning heavily 
on a stick, one foot dragging helplessly along the ground. 
His face was scored with the brand of suffering and 
bitter thought. He had, as the result of a bicycle 
accident, lain twelve months motionless upon his bed, 
and had stolen back to the ways of men a maimed and 
stricken figure. He came unattended. There was no 
one to receive him save a few eager working men who 
had been preaching Socialism to deaf ears in the market- 
place. There was no organisation to work for him. 
There was no money at his command. He seemed like 
David going out with his pebble and his sling against 
the hosts of the Philistines. It was the battle of "the 
one and the fifty-three." 

Thousands of their soldiers leaned from their decks and laughed, 
Thousands of their seamen made mock of the mad little craft 

Running on and on 


Philip Snowden 317 

But that was at the beginning. Later on, as in the 
fight at Flores, soldiers and seamen had other work to 
do. By the end of the battle they were fighting for 
dear life. 

For Philip Snowden wrought a miracle. That election 
will never be forgotten by those who witnessed it. It 
was like a sudden wind stirring the leaves of the forest. 
It was a revival movement gathering momentum with 
each hour. Philip Snowden's name was on every lip, 
his sayings ran like rumour through the weaving sheds 
and the street. Men in their greasy caps, and carrying 
their " kits," hurried from the mills to his meetings, and 
sat as if hypnotised under the spell of revelation. He 
fought the battle absolutely single-handed, and he 
fought it with a dignity of spirit rare in politics. 
" Snowden is an Atheist " was chalked on a hundred 
walls. He ignored the slander. " Snowden was dis- 
missed from the Excise " passed from lip to lip. Again 
he was silent. He was urged to tell the real facts, 
which were entirely honourable to him. " No," he said, 
" I have resolved to fight this battle on politics and not 
on personalities, and from that I will not move." In a 
fortnight, in spite of the crushing odds against him, in 
spite of the war fever, in spite of the Church and the 
brewers, wealth, influence, and the popularity of the 
two Tory candidates, he had shaken the Gibraltar of 
Toryism to its foundations. To-day he sits for Black- 
burn, the first member other than a Conservative who 
has represented the constituency for a quarter of a 

I take Philip Snowden to be the typical Socialist in 
Parliament. He is the man of the idee fixe. You see 
it in the drawn face, the clenched mouth, the cold, un- 

318 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

compromising grey eyes. Other men of his party will 
yield a little to gain much. He yields nothing. He is 
the steady, relentless foe of society as it is constituted. 
He will have no half measures, no coquettings with the 
enemy. His theory or nothing. He owes his seat 
largely to Liberal votes ; but he makes no sign of 
recognition or thanks. Liberalism is to him as Toryism. 
Nay, it is more detestable than Toryism, because it is 
more dangerous to his aims. He stands for revolution 
a bloodless revolution, but still a revolution. Toryism, 
with its reactionary impulses, paves the way to revolu- 
tion ; Liberalism, with its moderate reforms, defeats 
revolution. Hence Toryism is in some sense a friend, 
while Liberalism, blunting the edge of popular demand, 
is the real enemy. And so when Mr Snowden goes 
about the country, it is Liberalism which is the target 
of his bitterest attacks. He will acknowledge no good 
thing in it. He will take nothing from it with thanks, 
for its best gifts are only intended to make existing 
society tolerable, and he wants it to be intolerable. 

One evening I was talking after dinner at the club 
with a group of Liberal politicians. The conversation 
turned to the strength of absolute, uncompromising 
Socialism in Parliament. " Keir Hardie," said one, 
" calculates that there are ten Socialists in the House." 
We set ourselves to find them. Ramsay Macdonald ? 
" Not a Socialist first, but a politician," said one. " Not 
a Socialist, but an Opportunist," said another. Pete 
Curran ? " Not a Socialist first, but an Irishman," said 
a third. " Let John Redmond say ' Home Rule to-day ; 
the Social Revolution to-morrow,' and Curran would 
follow the banner of Ireland." Victor Grayson ? " The 
wine is too new in the bottle; give him time." And so 

Philip Snowden 319 

the vveeding-out went on. At each name some qualify- 
ing circumstance of sympathy or outlook was recalled. 
Only at two names was there no pause the names of 
Keir Hardie and Philip Snowden. They are Socialists 
sans phrase. Others subscribe to the economic theories 
of Socialism. They alone live for them and for nothing 
else. Others join in the political fray ; they stand aloof 
from what they regard as idle trifling : their eyes fixed 
on the ultimate goal. To them the House of Commons 
is not a place for petty skirmishes and paltry triumphs. 
It is a platform from whence to preach the Social 
Revolution. They will not prune the tree: they will 
uproot it. 

Most men who go to the House of Commons, no 
matter what their views or their social rank, soon fall 
in with the spirit of the place. They share its common 
life and enjoy its social comradeship. Many of them, 
indeed, find the spirit of the place a solvent of principle. 
They find the virgin enthusiasm they brought with them 
from the country languishes in this atmosphere of 
geniality and compromise. The principle that was so 
clear on the platform, where you had it all to yourself, 
is not so unchallengeable here. The Tory with whom 
you have smoked a pipe down below is quite a pleasant 
fellow and in his way just, and the Liberal or Labour 
man with whom you had a chat on the terrace seems 
really an honest man misguided, of course, but still 
with a good deal of reason in him. The sharp lines 
get blurred, and black and white tend to shade away 
into varying tones of grey. 

Philip Snowden stands aloof from all this tendency 
lonely, unyielding, consumed with one passionate 
purpose. This House of Commons through which he 

320 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

moves with painful steps, what is it but the mirror of 
the social system that he hopes to see shattered ? 
" Propputty, propputty, propputty " that's what he 
hears it say. He is in it, but not of it. He looks out 
on it with cold, bitter scrutiny. A faint, wistful smile 
flits across his pale face as he talks to you ; but it is 
the smile of polite formality. It has no relation to the 
fierce fire that burns within, steadily, unchangeably, a 
fire that would consume you with the rest of the regime 
of wrong. 

He is the stuff of which revolutions are made. I have 
not been in the House when he has spoken ; but I 
am told that he has not been a Parliamentary success. 
It would be strange if he were. The House loves the 
atmosphere of sympathy : here is no sympathy, but 
bitter challenge. It loves light and colour and easy 
raillery, playing upon the surface of its purposes : here 
is nothing but fierce intensity, ruthless and implacable. 
But I doubt whether there is any man living to-day 
with an equal power of moving great bodies of men 
to a certain exaltation of spirit, of communicating his 
own passion to others, of giving to politics something of 
the fervour of religious emotion. He is doctrinaire and 
academic in the extreme ; but he fuses his theories with 
an enthusiasm that burns at white heat. If ever there 
were a revolution in this country, I do not know who 
would be its Danton, but I should have no doubt as 
to who would be its Robespierre. 

Constancy is a rare virtue in politics. There are few 
men of whom it would be safe to forecast their in- 
tellectual and political point of view ten years hence. 
But, whatever happens, Philip Snowden will be where 
he stands to-day. He will neither ask quarter nor 

Philip Snowden 321 

yield it. He will fight his battle out on these lines, 
though it takes all his life, and he has nothing to 
record but defeat. I am told that he will lose Black- 
burn at the next election because of his bitter attitude 
toward Liberalism. One thing is certain ; he will do 
nothing to conciliate the Liberals. He must be taken 
on his terms, if taken at all. Compromise is not in 
him. He is one of those rare men who live for an 
idea, and who have neither aim nor ambition outside 
it. He would wade through slaughter to achieve it ; 
he would go to the stake rather than surrender the 
least fragment of it. If you want to realise the purpose 
and the passion of Socialism, he is the man to watch. 
He is worth watching as a study of intensity and 
idealism. He is still more worth watching as one of the 
potentialities of our national life. For if Socialism ever 
came to power and that depends largely on whether 
Liberalism is a sufficiently effective instrument of 
reform to keep it at bay it will be Philip Snowden 
who will be largely the architect of the new social 



WALKING down Fleet Street some day you may meet 
a form whose vastness blots out the heavens. Great 
waves of hair surge from under the soft, wide-brimmed 
hat. A cloak that might be a legacy from Porthos 
floats about his colossal frame. He pauses in the midst 
of the pavement to read the book in his hand, and a 
cascade of laughter descending from the head notes to 
the middle voice gushes out on the listening air. He 
looks up, adjusts his pince-nez, observes that he is not 
in a cab, remembers that he ought to be in a cab, turns 
and hails a cab. The vehicle sinks down under the 
unusual burden and rolls heavily away. It carries 
Gilbert Keith Chesterton. 

Mr Chesterton is the most conspicuous figure in the 
landscape of literary London. He is like a visitor out 
of some fairy tale, a legend in the flesh, a survival of the 
childhood of the world. Most of us are the creatures of 
our time, thinking its thoughts, wearing its clothes, re- 
joicing in its chains. If we try to escape from the 
temporal tyranny, it is through the gate of revolt that 
we go. Some take to asceticism or to some fantastic 
foppery of the moment. Some invent Utopias, lunch on 
nuts and proteid at Eustace Miles', and flaunt red ties 
defiantly in the face of men and angels. The world is 
bond, but they are free. But in all this they are still 


Gilbert K. Chesterton 323 

the children of our time, fleeting and self-conscious. 
Mr Chesterton's extravagances have none of this quality. 
He is not a rebel. He is a wayfarer from the ages, 
stopping at the inn of life, warming himself at the fire 
and making the rafters ring with his jolly laughter. 

Time and place are accidents: he is elemental and 
primitive. He is not of our time, but of all times. One 
imagines him wrestling with the giant Skrymir and 
drinking deep draughts from the horn of Thor, or ex- 
changing jests with Falstaff at the Boar's Head in 
Eastcheap, or joining in the intellectual revels at the 
Mermaid Tavern, or meeting Johnson foot to foot and 
dealing blow for mighty blow. With Rabelais he rioted, 
and Don Quixote and Sancho were his " vera brithers." 
One seems to see him coming down from the twilight 
of fable, through the centuries, calling wherever there is 
good company, and welcome wherever he calls, for he 
brings no cult of the time or pedantry of the schools 
with him. 

He has the freshness and directness of the child's 
vision. In a very real sense indeed he has never left 
the golden age never come out into the light of 
common day, where the tone is grey and things have 
lost their imagery. He lives in a world of romance, 
peopled with giants and gay with the light laughter of 
fairies. The visible universe is full of magic and 
mystery. The trees are giants waving their arms in the 
air. The great globe is a vast caravanserai carrying 
us all on a magnificent adventure through space. He 
moves in an atmosphere of enchantment, and may 
stumble upon a romance at the next street corner. 
Beauty in distress may call to him from some hollow 
secrecy ; some tyrannous giant may straddle like 

324 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

Apollyon across the path as he turns into Carmelite 
Street. It is well that he has his swordstick with him, 
for one never knows what may turn up in this incredible 
world. Memory goeth not back to a time when a sword 
was not his constant companion. It used to be a 
wooden sword, with which went a wooden helmet 
glowing with the pigments of Apollo. Those were the 
days when the horn of Roland echoed again through 
Roncesvalles, and Lancelot pricked forth to the joust, 


Ever the scaly shape of monstrous sin 

At last lay vanquished, fold on writhing fold. 

Ah, le bon temps ou fetaisjeune. But he .still 
carries with him the glamour of the morning ; his cheek 
still blanches at Charlemagne's " What a marching life 
is mine ! " I burst in on him one afternoon and found 
him engaged in a furious attack on a row of fat books, 
around which his sword flashed like the sword of 
Sergeant Troy around the figure of Bathsheba Everdene. 
His eye blazed, his cheek paled, and beads of perspira- 
tion no uncommon thing stood out on his brow. It 
was a terrific combat, and it was fortunate that the 
foe were not, as in the leading case of Don Quixote, 
disguised in wine-skins, for that would have involved 
lamentable bloodshed. As it was, the books wore an 
aspect of insolent calm. One could almost see the con- 
temptuous curl upon the lip, the haughty assurance of 
victory. I own it was hard to bear. 

Adventure is an affair of the soul, not of circumstance. 
Thoreau, by his pond at Walden, or paddling up the 
Concord, had more adventures than Stanley had on 
the Congo, more adventures than Stanley could have. 
That was why he refused to come to Europe. He knew 

Gilbert K. Chesterton 325 

he could see as many wonders from his own backyard 
as he could though he sought for them in the islands of 
the farthest seas. " Why, who makes much of miracles ? " 
says Whitman. 

As to me, I know of nothing else but miracles . . . 
To me every hour of the light and dark is a miracle. 

Miracles and adventures are the stuff of Mr Chester- 
ton's everyday life. He goes out on to the Sussex 
downs with his coloured chalks in the cavernous 
mysteries of his pockets there is always a box of 
pastels, though " the mark of the mint," in his own 
phrase, may be unaccountably absent and discovers 
he has no white chalk with which to complete his 
picture. His foot stumbles against a mound, and lo ! 
he is standing on a mountain of chalk, and he shouts 
with joy at the miracle, for the world has never lost 
its freshness and wonder to him. It is as though he 
discovers it anew each day, and stands exultant at the 

It is a splendid pageant that passes unceasingly before 


New and yet old 
As the foundations of the heavens and earth. 

Familiarity has not robbed it of its magic. He sees 
it as the child sees its first rainbow or the lightning 
flashing from the thunder-cloud. Most of us, before we 
reach maturity, find life stale and unprofitable 

a twice-told tale 
Vexing the dull ears of a drowsy man. 

We are like the blase policeman I met when I was 
waiting for a 'bus at Finchley one Bank Holiday. " A 
lot of people abroad to-day ? " I said interrogatively. 
" Yes," he said, "thahsands." " Where do most of them 

326 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

go this way?" "Oh, to Barnet. Though what they 
see in Barnet I can't make out. I never see nothin' in 
Barnet." " Perhaps they like to see the green fields and 
hear the birds," I said. " Well, perhaps," he replied, 
in the tone of one who tolerated follies which he was 
too enlightened to share. " There'll be more at the 
Exhibition, I suppose ? " I said, hoping to turn his mind 
to the contemplation of a more cheerful subject. " The 
Exhibition ! Well, I was down there on duty the day it 
was opened, and I never see such a poor show. Oh yes, 
the gardens ; they're all right, but you can see gardens 
anywhere." Despairingly I mentioned Hampstead as 
a merry place on Bank Holiday. " Well, I never see 
nothin' in 'Ampstead myself. I dunno what the people 
go for. And there's the Garden City there, and crowds 
and crowds a-going to look at it. Well, what is there in 
it ? That's what I asts. What-is-there-in-it ? I never 
see nothin' in it." 

The world of culture shares the policeman's physical 
ennui in a spiritual sense. It sees " nothing in it." We 
succeed in deadening the fresh intensity of the impres- 
sion, and burying the miracle under the dust of the 
common day veiling it under names and formulas. 
" This green, flowery, rock-built earth, the trees, the 
mountains, rivers, many-sounding seas ; that great 
deep sea of azure that swims overhead ; the winds 
sweeping through it; the black cloud fashioning itself 
together, now pouring out fire, now hail and rain ; what 
is it ? Ay, what ? At bottom, we do not yet know ; 
we can never know at all. It is not by our superior 
insight that we escape the difficulty; it is by our 
superior levity, our inattention, our want of insight. It 
is by not thinking that we cease to wonder at it. ... 

Gilbert K. Chesterton 327 

This world, after all our science and sciences, is still a 
miracle ; wonderful, inscrutable, magical and more, to 
whomsoever will think of it." It is this elemental 
faculty of wonder, of which Carlyle speaks, that dis- 
tinguishes Mr Chesterton from his contemporaries, and 
gives him kinship at once with the seers and the children. 
He is anathema to the erudite and the exact ; but he 
sees life in the large, with the eyes of the first man on 
the day of creation. As he says, in inscribing a book of 
Caldecott's pictures to a little friend of mine 

This is the sort of book we like 

(For you and I are very small), 
With pictures stuck in anyhow, 

And hardly any words at all. 

You will not understand a word 
Of all the words, including mine ; 

Never you trouble ; you can see, 
And all directness is divine 

Stand up and keep your childishness : 

Read all the pedants' screeds and strictures ; 

But don't believe in anything 

That can't be told in coloured pictures. 

Life to him is a book of coloured pictures that he 
sees without external comment or exegesis. He sees it, 
as it were, at first hand, and shouts out his vision at the 
top of his voice. Hence the audacity that is so trying 
to the formalist who is governed by custom and 
authority. Hence the rain of paradoxes that he showers 
down. It is often suggested that these paradoxes 
are a conscious trick to attract attention that Mr 
Chesterton stands on his head, as it were, to gather a 
crowd. I can conceive him standing on his head in 
Fleet Street in sheer joy at the sight of St Paul's, but 

328 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

not in vanity, or with a view to a collection. The truth 
is that his paradox is his own comment on the coloured 

There are some men who hoard life as a miser hoards 
his gold map it out with frugal care and vast prescience, 
spend to-day in taking thought for to-morrow. Mr 
Chesterton spends life like a prodigal. Economy has 
no place in his spacious vocabulary. " Economy," he 
might say, with Anthony Hope's Mr Carter, " is going 
without something you do want in case you should 
some day want something which you probably won't 
want." Mr Chesterton lives the unconsidered, untram- 
melled life. He simply rambles along without a thought 
of where he is going. If he likes the look of a road 
he turns down it, careless of where it may lead to. 
" He is announced to lecture at Bradford to-night," 
said a speaker, explaining his absence from a dinner. 
" Probably he will turn up at Edinburgh." He will 
wear no harness, learn no lessons, observe no rules. 
He is himself, Chesterton not consciously or rebelliously, 
but unconsciously, like a natural element. St Paul's 
School never had a more brilliant nor a less sedulous 
scholar. He did not win prizes, but he read more books, 
drew more pictures, wrote more poetry than any boy 
that ever played at going to school. His house was 
littered with books, filled with verses and grotesque 
drawings. All attempts to break him into routine 
failed. He tried the Slade School, and once even sat 
on a stool in an office. Think of it ! G. K. C. in front 
of a ledger, adding up figures with romantic results 
figures that turned into knights in armour, broke into 
song, and, added together, produced paradoxes unknown 
to arithmetic ! He saw the absurdity of it all. " A 

Gilbert K. Chesterton 329 

man must follow his vocation," he said with Falstaff, 
and his vocation is to have none. 

And so he rambles along, engaged in an endless 
disputation, punctuated with gusts of Rabelaisian 
laughter, and leaving behind a litter of fragments. You 
may track him by the blotting-pads he decorates with 
his riotous fancies, and may come up with him in the 
midst of a group of children, for whom he is drawing 
hilarious pictures, or to whom he is revealing the wonders 
of his toy theatre, the chief child of his fancy and 
invention, or whom he is instructing in the darkly 
mysterious game of " Guyping," which will fill the day 
with laughter. " Well," said the aunt to the little boy 
who had been to tea with Mr Chesterton, " well, Frank, 
I suppose you have had a very instructive afternoon ? " 
" I don't know what that means," said Frank, " but, 
oh ! " with enthusiasm, " you should see Mr Chesterton 
catch buns with his mouth." If you cannot find him, 
and Fleet Street looks lonely and forsaken, then be 
sure he has been spirited away to some solitary place 
by his wife, the keeper of his business conscience, to 
finish a book for which some publisher is angrily 
clamouring. For " No clamour, no book," is his maxim. 

Mr Chesterton's natural foil in these days is Mr 
Bernard Shaw. Mr Shaw is the type of revolt. The 
flesh we eat, the wine we drink, the clothes we wear, 
the laws we obey, the religion we affect all are an 
abomination to him. He would raze the whole fabric 
to the ground, and build all anew upon an ordered and 
symmetrical plan. Mr Chesterton has none of this 
impatience with the external garment of society. He 
enjoys disorder and loves the haphazard. With Rossetti 
he might say, " What is it to me whether the earth 

330 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

goes round the sun or the sun round the earth?" It 
is not the human intellect that interests him, but the 
human heart and the great comedy of life. He opposes 
ancient sympathies to modern antipathies. It follows 
that Mr Shaw's weapon is wit, sharp-edged as the east 
wind, and that Mr Chesterton's weapon is humour that 
buffets you like a gale from the west. 

No man was ever more careless of his reputation. 
He is indifferent whether from his abundant mine he 
shovels out diamonds or dirt. You may take it or leave 
it, as you like. He cares not, and bears no malice. It 
is all a blithe improvisation, done in sheer ebullience 
of spirit and having no relation to conscious literature. 
He is like a child shouting with glee at the sight of the 
flowers and the sunshine, and chalking on every vacant 
hoarding he passes with a jolly rapture of invention 
and no thought beyond. 

But there is one thing, and one only, about which he 
is serious, and that is his own seriousness. You may 
laugh with him and at him and about him. When, at a 
certain dinner, one of the speakers said that his chivalry 
was so splendid that he had been known to rise in a 
tramcar and " offer his seat to three ladies," it was his 
laugh that sounded high above all the rest. But if you 
would wound him, do not laugh at his specific gravity : 
doubt his spiritual gravity. Doubt his passion for 
justice and liberty and patriotism most of all, his 
patriotism. For he is, above all, the lover of Little 
England and the foe of the Imperialist, whose love of 
country is " not what a mystic means by the love of 
God, but what a child might mean by the love of jam." 
" My country, right or wrong ! " he cries. " Why, it is 
a thing no patriot could say. It is like saying, ' My 

Gilbert K. Chesterton 331 

mother, drunk or sober.' No doubt, if a decent man's 
mother took to drink, he would share her troubles to 
the last ; but to talk as if he would be in a state of gay 
indifference as to whether his mother took to drink or 
not is certainly not the language of men who know the 
great mystery. . . . We fall back upon gross and frivo- 
lous things for our patriotism. . . . Our schoolboys are 
left to live and die in the infantile type of patriotism 
which they learnt from a box of tin soldiers. . . . We 
have made our public schools the strongest wall against 
a whisper of the honour of England. . . . What have we 
done and where have we wandered, we that have pro- 
duced sages who could have spoken with Socrates, and 
poets who could walk with Dante, that we should talk 
as if we had never done anything more intelligent than 
found colonies and kick niggers ? We are the children 
of light, and it is we that sit in darkness. If we are 
judged, it will not be for the merely intellectual trans- 
gression of failing to appreciate other nations, but for the 
supreme spiritual transgression of failing to appreciate 

But sincere though he is, he loves the argument for 
its own sake. He is indifferent to the text. You may 
tap any subject you like : he will find it a theme on which 
to hang all the mystery of time and eternity. For the 
ordinary material cares of life he has no taste, almost no 
consciousness. He never knows the time of a train, has 
only a hazy notion of where he will dine, and the doings 
of to-morrow are as profound a mystery as the contents 
of his pocket. He dwells outside these things in the 
realm of ideas. Johnson said that when he and Savage 
walked one night round St James' Square for want of a 
lodging, they were not at all depressed by their situation, 

332 Prophets, Priests, and Kings 

but, in high spirits and brimful of patriotism, traversed 
the square for several hours, inveighed against the 
minister, and " resolved that they would stand by their 
country" That is Mr Chesterton's way. But he would 
not walk round St James' Square. He would, in John- 
son's circumstances, ride round and round in a cab even 
if he had to borrow the fare off the cabman. He is free 
from the tyranny of things. Though he lived in a 
tub he would-be rich beyond the dreams of avarice, for 
he would still have the universe for his intellectual 

I sometimes think that one moonlight night, when 
he is tired of Fleet Street, he will scale the walls of the 
Tower and clothe himself in a suit of giant mail, with 
shield and sword to match. He will come forth with 
vizor up and mount the battle-steed that champs its bit 
outside. And the clatter of his hoofs will ring through 
the quiet of the city night as he thunders through St 
Paul's Churchyard and down Ludgate Hill and out on 
to the Great North Road. And then once more will be 
heard the cry of " St George for Merry England ! " and 
there will be the clash of swords in the greenwood and 
brave deeds done on the King's highway. 



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